Skip to main content

Full text of "Clara Barton"

See other formats

Clara Barton 


Clemson Universit 

3 1604 019 781 238 

The National Park Handbook Series 

National Park Handbooks, compact introductions to the 
great natural and historic places administered by the 
National Park Service, are designed to promote under- 
standing and enjoyment of the parks. Each is intended 
to be informative reading and a useful guide before, 
during, and after a park visit. More than 100 titles are 
in print. This is Handbook 1 10. You may purchase the 
handbooks through the mail by writing to the Super- 
intendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing 
Office, Washington, D.C. 20402. 

About This Book 

Clara Barton National Historic Site in Glen Echo, Mary- 
land, a suburb of Washington, D.C, memorializes the 
life of Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red 
Cross. Part 1 of this book is a chronology of Clara 
Barton and her times. Part 2 is a biographical essay. 
Part 3 is a guide to the park itself and to National Park 
Service and other public and private areas associated 
with her career. 

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data 

United States, National Park Service. Clara Barton, 
Clara Barton National Historic Site, Maryland. 
(National park handbook; 110) Includes index. 

CONTENTS: Clara Barton and her times-Pryor, E.B. 

The professional angel— Guide and adviser. 

1. Barton, Clara Harlowe, 1821-1912. 2. Clara 

Barton National Historic Site, Md. 

I. Title. II. Series: United States. National Park 

Service. Handbook-National Park Service: 110 

HV569.B3U65 1981 361.763 [B] 80-607838 


Part 1 Clara Barton and Her Times 4 

A Look to the Past 
A Chronology 8 

Part 2 The Professional Angel 14 

by Elizabeth Brown Pryor 

Square as a Brick 16 

Doing Something Decided 22 

Battling for Ratification 35 

Barton and the Red Cross in Action 46 

Storm and Controversy 56 

Part 3 Guide and Adviser 66 

Clara Barton National Historic Site: 
A Saga of Preservation 68 
National Park Service Sites 
Associated with Clara Barton 72 
National Park Service Sites 
Commemorating American Women 75 
Related Sites 76 
Armchair Explorations: 
Some Books You May Want to Read 78 

Index 79 

and He; s as 




A Look at the Past 

The figures on the preceding two 
pages are, from left to right: 
Grand Duchess Louise of Baden, 
Antoinette Margot, George 
Kennan, Julian Hub bell, Clara 
Barton, and Jean-Henri Dunant. 

Clara Barton, humanitarian and 
founder of the American Red Cross, 
spent the last 15 years of her life in a 
house in Glen Echo, Maryland, now 
known as Clara Barton National His- 
toric Site. Here her contributions to 
American life and her personal 
achievements are memorialized. 
Here you can see many of her per- 
sonal effects and some of the awards 
given to her. Here, too, you can 
learn of the substance of her life and 
see how she lived and worked. 

From Glen Echo, you can go on to 
several other National Park System 
sites associated with Clara Barton: 
Antietam, Andersonville, Manassas, 
Fredericksburg, and Johnstown. To- 
gether these diverse sites document 
her life, her work, and her legacy. 
Begin here at her house and fill in 
details of her life as you come across 
them at the other sites. For example, 
the lumber you see in the building at 
Glen Echo was originally used as 
temporary housing for victims of the 
Johnstown, Pennsylvania, flood in 
1889. After Clara Barton and the 
Red Cross finished helping the in- 
jured and the homeless in that city, 
the structure was dismantled and 
shipped to Washington, D.C. Two 
years later, the materials were used 
at Glen Echo to construct a national 
headquarters for the American Red 

The new building had essentially 
the same lines as the Johnstown 
structure with various alterations to 
accommodate the needs of the 
American Red Cross and Clara Bar- 
ton herself. 

Initially she planned to use this 
building as a warehouse for Ameri- 
can Red Cross supplies. Six years 
after its construction, the building 
was remodeled and used not only as 

a warehouse, but also as the head- 
quarters of the new organization and 
as the residence for her and her staff. 
The structure served all purposes 
well. Clara Barton did not distinguish 
between herself and the organization 
she founded. The lines were blurred; 
she was the Red Cross, and the Red 
Cross was Clara Barton. That is evi- 
dent here in the house, for she did 
not separate living space from work- 
ing space. The building's purposes 
merged in its principal resident. 

Using the place as a home, Clara 
Barton learned to love the passage of 
the seasons, to enjoy the way the 
light came in at different times of the 
year, to plant the yard and garden 
the way she wanted. As a headquar- 
ters and warehouse for the Red 
Cross, the building served her well, 
too. She met there with many digni- 
taries and volunteers on Red Cross 
business and stored supplies for po- 
tential disasters. Her home and office 
testify to her complete and unequivo- 
cal devotion to the Red Cross. 

Less sharply focused is Clara Bar- 
ton's role in women's rights. Miss 
Barton was neither a traditional 
woman nor a radical feminist, al- 
though Susan B. Anthony and Har- 
riet Austin were friends. She did not 
repudiate the traditional roles for 
women. Instead she succeeded in en- 
larging that accepted sphere so that 
the traditional skills of women — 
teaching children, nursing the sick — 
became acceptable in the public 
sphere. Clara Barton argued for 
women's equality and believed in 
their right to vote. But concern for 
her fledgling organization overrode 
her dedication to women's rights and 
all other causes. 

At her home and office in Glen 
Echo you can begin to sense this 

complex, fascinating individual: the 
public and private person so inextric- 
ably intertwined. You sense the 
space in which Clara Barton moved, 
worked, and thought. Impressions 
coalesce into an image. And yet that 
image cannot become distinct with- 
out understanding her many ideas, 
desires, and efforts noted in her diar- 
ies, letters, and papers. This hand- 
book tells the story of her eventful 
90 years. The next few pages contain 
a brief chronology of her life and 
times. Part 2 provides a full-length 
biographical essay by historian Eliza- 
beth Brown Pryor. Barton in both 
triumph and defeat is here for the 
reader to accept, reject, or wonder 
at. Many of her own words are here 
to explain more fully what she was 
thinking — and worrying — about. The 
biography amplifies the chronology, 
making it come alive with the whims 
and inconsistencies of human nature. 
It's a book within a book. And Part 
3 is a guide to sites, managed by the 
National Park Service and other pub- 
lic and private organizations, associ- 
ated with Clara Barton and her ca- 

Together the three parts of this 
handbook provide a clear image of 
one of the most outstanding women 
of the 19th century, Clara Barton. 

A Chronology 


Clara Barton is born December 25 
in North Oxford, Massachusetts 


John Quincy Adams becomes 
President; Erie Canal opens 


Andrew Jackson becomes 


U.S. population is 12,866,020; 
Peter Cooper builds first U.S. 


Clara Barton nurses brother 
David back to health; Louisa May 
Alcott is born 

Louisa May Alcott 

1834 Cyrus McCormick patents 

1835 Sarah and Angelina Grimke 
become active abolitionists; 
Samuel Colt patents revolver 






Martin Van Buren becomes 

Clara Barton begins teaching 
school in North Oxford and con- 
tinues teaching for the next 11 
years; Mount Holyoke, first 
college for women, opens 

Clara Barton as a schoolteacher 


William Henry Harrison 
becomes President, dies April 4 
and is succeeded by John Tyler 


Use of anesthetics begins 
in U.S. 


First telegraphic message sent 
by S.F.B. Morse 

1845 James K. Polk becomes 

President; Margaret Fuller 
publishes Woman in the 
Nineteenth Century; Frederick 
Douglass publishes Narrative 
of the Life of Frederick 
Douglass, an American Slave 

Mexican War begins, ends 
in 1848 

American Medical Association 
is founded 

Sarah Grimke 

Angelina Grimke 

First Women's Rights 
Convention is held in Seneca 
Falls, New York 

1849 Zachary Taylor becomes 

President, dies July 9, 1850, 
and is succeeded by Millard 
Fillmore; Elizabeth Black well 
becomes first woman to receive 
M.D. degree 






Clara Barton plans to enter 
Clinton Liberal Institute, Clinton, 
New York; Harriet Tubman 
begins helping slaves escape 
via Underground Railway 


Harriet Tubman 

Clara Barton's mother dies 

Clara Barton moves to Washington, 
D.C., and becomes clerk in Patent 
Office -at that time the only female 
employed by U.S. Government 

Battle of Solferino is fought 
June 24; James Buchanan 
becomes President 

Edwin Drake drills first oil well 

1 860 U.S. population is 3 1 ,443 ,32 1 
(includes 3,953,760 slaves and 
448,800 free blacks) 

1861 Clara Barton begins aid to Union 
soldiers; Abraham Lincoln 
becomes President, is assas- 
sinated April 15, 1865, and is 
succeeded by Andrew Johnson; 
American Civil War begins 
with firing on Fort Sumter, 
South Carolina, and ends 1865 
at Appomattox Court House, 

Clara Barton starts free school at 
Bordentown, New Jersey; Harriet 

Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Union soldiers near Falmouth, Virginia 
Cabin is published 

• ■' ■.''-■■.,:.■ •■H-' r ' 

Harriet Beecher Stowe 

1853 Franklin Pierce becomes 

President; Singer sewing 
machine factory opens 

Abraham Lincoln 

1862 Clara Barton's father dies; Un 

Souvenir de Solferino is pub- 
lished by Jean-Henri Dunant 



1 864 Clara Barton becomes supervisor 

of nurses for the Army of the 
James; Treaty of Geneva is 
signed, thereby establishing the 
International Red Cross 

Clara Barton works at Anderson- 
ville, Georgia, to establish national 

1867 U.S. purchases Alaska; first 
practical typewriter is devel- 
oped by Christopher Sholes 

1868 Andrew Johnson is acquitted 
in impeachment proceedings; 
Susan B. Anthony and 
Elizabeth Cady Stanton 
begin publication of The 

Susan B. Anthonv 

Elizabeth Cady Stanton 

1869 Clara Barton begins travels in 

Europe that last until 1873, and 
meets Dr. Louis Appia of the 
International Committee of the 
Red Cross; U.S. Secretary of 
State Hamilton Fish rejects 
Treaty of Geneva; Ulysses S. 
Grant becomes President; first 
state board of health is estab- 
lished in Massachusetts 




Clara Barton works with Red Cross 
during Franco-Prussian War, 
which lasts until 1871 

Grand Duchess Louise of Baden 

Victoria Woodhull becomes 
first woman to run for U.S. 

1873 First school of nursing is 

established at Bellevue Hos- 
pital in New York City 

Clara Barton meets Julian 
Hubbell in Dansville, New York; 

Frances Willard founds 
Women's Christian Temper- 
ance Union; electric street- 
cars begin running in New 
York City 

Julian Hubbell 

Clara Barton collaborates with 
Susan B. Anthony on biographies 
of noted women; Alexander 
Graham Bell invents telephone 



Clara Barton begins correspond- 
ence with Louis Appia with goal of 
having U.S. ratify Treaty of 
Geneva; Rutherford B. Hayes 
becomes President 


Clara Barton founds American 
Association of the Red Cross, is 
elected president, establishes first 
local chapter of the American 
Red Cross at Dansville, New 
York, and aids victims of Michigan 
forest fires; James A. Garfield 
becomes President, is shot 
July 2, and is succeeded by 
Chester Arthur 

Rutherford B. Haves 


Edison invents incandescent 
light bulb 

James A. Garfield Chester Arthur 

1882 Clara Barton helps victims of Ohio 

and Mississippi river floods; U.S. 
Senate ratifies Treaty of 
Geneva, March 16, and ratifi- 
cation is proclaimed July 26 

Steamboats left high and dry by floodwaters 


Drawing from Thomas Edison 's 
notebook, September 1879 

Clara Barton serves for a short 
period as superintendent of 
Women's Reformatory Prison in 
Sherborn, Massachusetts, and aids 
victims of tornadoes in Louisiana 
and Alabama 


Clara Barton assists survivors of 
Ohio and Mississippi river floods; 

International Red Cross adopts 
"American Amendment ; " 
study of tuberculosis begins 
in earnest 


1885 Ottmar Mergenthaler invents 

linotype machine; Grover 
Cleveland becomes President 






Clara Barton sends relief to 
Charleston, South Carolina, after 

1 ooo Clara Barton organizes care of 

Jacksonville, Florida, yellow fever 
victims; George Eastman per- 
fects hand camera 

Clara Barton works at Johnstown, 
Pennsylvania, flood scene; 

Benjamin Harrison becomes 
President; Jane Addams opens 
Hull House in Chicago; Mayo 
brothers open clinic in 
Rochester, Minnesota 


Jane Addams 

U.S. population stands at 


Clara Barton builds house at Glen 
Echo, Maryland 

Clara Barton sends relief to victims 
of Sea Island hurricane; Grover 
Cleveland becomes President; 
Lillian Wald establishes Henry 
Street Settlement House in 
New York City 

Lillian Wald 

Rontgen discovers X-rays 

1897 Clara Barton moves to Glen Echo; 

William McKinley becomes 
President, is shot September 6, 
1901, dies September 14, and 
is succeeded by Theodore 

Clara Barton takes the Red Cross 
to the front lines during Spanish- 
American War, which lasts from 
April 11 to August 13, and pub- 
lishes The Red Cross in Peace 
and War 


Clara Barton organizes relief for 
victims of drought and famine in 

Red Cross ambulance used during the 
Spanish-American War 


1900 Clara Barton organizes relief for 
Galveston, Texas, after hurricane 
and tidal wave, and receives grow- 
ing criticism for way she is 
managing the Red Cross; Federal 
charter granted to the Amer- 
ican National Red Cross; 
Walter Reed discovers that 
mosquitoes transmit yellow 

1901 Jean-Henri Dunant shares, 
with Frederic Passy, the first 
Nobel Peace Prize; Marconi 
transmits first radio signal 
across the Atlantic 




Arthur Little patents rayon 

Wright brothers fly their first 


Clara Barton publishes The 
Story of My Childhood 

At her desk in Glen Echo 


William Howard Taft becomes 

1912 Clara Barton dies April 12 at 

Glen Echo at age 90 

1915 President Woodrow Wilson 

lays cornerstone for American 
National Red Cross head- 
quarters in Washington, D.C. 

The first flight 


Clara Barton resigns as president 
of the American National Red 
Cross; Mabel Boardman takes 
control until 1946 

Mabel Boardman 


Clara Barton forms the National 
First Aid Society 




Friends of Clara Barton, Inc., 
purchases house at Glen Echo 

The U.S. Congress establishes on 
October 26 Clara Barton National 
Historic Site 

National Park Service assumes 
responsibility for Clara Barton 
National Historic Site 



The Professional 

-~j- —UjtoS* 


Square as a Brick 

Sarah Stone Barton was a 
native New Englander and was 
born in 1787. She married at 
age 17, and in her first seven 
years of marriage, she gave 
birth to her first four children. 
The last, Clara, followed after 
a ten-year interval. 

Pages 14 and 15: Clara Barton 
and Red Cross workers in 
Tampa, Florida, await 
transportation to return to 
Cuba in 1898. 

As a woman of 87, Clara Barton re- 
membered "nothing but fear" when 
she looked back to her childhood. 
She portrayed herself as an intro- 
spective, insecure child, too timid to 
express her thoughts to others. Yet 
this girl who felt terror in all new sit- 
uations possessed the qualities that 
enabled her to overcome that fear, 
indeed to become the woman most 
universally acclaimed as courageous 
in American history. 

Her childhood was unusual. She 
was born on December 25, 1821, in 
North Oxford, Massachusetts, and 
named Clarissa Harlowe Barton after 
an aunt, who in turn had been 
named for a popular novel of her 
day. Her parents, Capt. Stephen 
Barton and Sarah Stone Barton, had 
four other children, all at least 10 
years of age by the time this child 
was born. Thus Clara — as she was al- 
ways called — was born into a world 
of adults and, as she later recalled, 
"had no playmates, but in effect six 
fathers and mothers." She might well 
have added "six teachers," for she 
noted that "all took charge of me, all 
educated me according to personal 

Sally Barton, her mother, was an 
erratic, nervous woman, with a repu- 
tation for profanity and a violent 
temper. She vented her frustrations 
in compulsive housework, and Clara 
Barton later recalled that her mother 
"never slept after 3 o'clock in the 
morning" and "always did two days 
work in one." Sally Barton spent lit- 
tle time with her youngest daughter, 
preferring to leave her with other 
family members. Thus Clara Barton 
learned political and military lore 
from her father, mathematics from 
her brother Stephen, and horseback 
riding from brother David. Her two 


sisters, Sally and Dolly, concentrated 
on teaching her academic subjects. 
Besides this household instruction, 
she attended both private and public 
schools in the Oxford area. 

She was a serious child, anxious to 
learn, but timid to try. Her later 
reminiscences of childhood were 
filled with stories of frightful thun- 
derstorms, intimidating schools, en- 
counters with snakes, and crippling 
illnesses. When she was six her sister 
Dolly, who had been an intellectual 
girl, became mentally unbalanced, 
and the family had to lock her in a 
room with barred windows. Once 
Dolly escaped and chased David's 
wife, Julia, around the yard with an 
ax in her hand. Clara Barton never 
publicly mentioned her sister's insan- 
ity, but she privately thought the ill- 
ness had been brought on by Dolly's 
unfulfilled desire to obtain a higher 
education. This rather frantic home- 
life and the presence of Dolly in the 
Barton household must have added 
greatly to her timidity and to her 
later emotional instability. 

Barton developed great loyalty for 
her family, eccentric as they were. 
On one occasion she nursed her 
brother David for two years after he 
was seriously injured in a fall. Later 
she used her political influence to as- 
sist family members; for example, to 
defend a cousin's job or to secure 
suitable military appointment for a 
relative. Throughout her life she was 
a faithful correspondent, continually 
interested in the affairs of nephews, 
nieces, cousins, brothers, and sisters. 
And in later years she described her 
family life in glowing terms, never 
mentioning her mother's tantrums or 
Dolly's insanity. Her devotion also 
extended to family friends. 

The Bartons were quintessentially 

industrious. David and Stephen Bar- 
ton were businessmen, successful pio- 
neers of milling techniques. Clara 
Barton's two sisters taught school; a 
cousin became the first woman Post 
Office official in Worcester County, 
Massachusetts. Such diligence was 
one of the great influences in Clara 
Barton's life. "You have never 
known me without work," she wrote 
when in her eighties, "and you never 
will. It has always been a part of the 
best religion I had." 

She began work early. She had 
been an intellectually precocious 
child and by her late teens was com- 
petent to teach. She first taught in 
the Oxford schools, and later she 
conducted classes for the children of 
workers in the Barton family mills. 
In these one-room schools she gained 
a reputation for first-rate scholarship 
and excellent discipline. She expelled 
and whipped students when neces- 
sary, but mostly she cajoled them 
into obedience through affection and 
respect. When her first school won 
the district's highest marks for disci- 
pline, she remonstrated: "I thought it 
the greatest injustice . . . [for] there 
had been no discipline. . . . Child 
that I was, I did not know that the 
surest test of discipline is its 

Barton was introspective and 
keenly aware of herself as an individ- 
ual, and this enabled her to view her 
students individually. She gave them 
such personal attention that scores of 
former pupils wrote to her in later 
years, confident that their uniqueness 
had touched her. Barton in turn 
called her pupils "my boys" and 
made no apologies for her loyalty. 
"They were all mine," she recalled 
in the second part of her autobiogra- 
phy, "second only to the claims and 


interests of the real mother. . . . And 
so they had remained. Scattered over 
the world, some near, some far, I 
have been their confidant. ... I 
count little in comparison with the 
faithful grateful love I hold today of 
the few survivors of my Oxford 

Teaching thus reinfored her loyalty 
and her sense of individuality. Her 
excellence as an instructor also had 
the effect of mitigating her introver- 
sion and strengthening her self-assur- 
ance. Indeed, she became confident 
enough to teach the roughest district 
schools and to demand pay equal to 
a man's. " I may sometimes be will- 
ing to teach for nothing," she told 
one school board, "but if paid at all, 
I shall never do a man's work for less 
than a man's pay." 

In 1850, after more than ten years 
of successful teaching, she felt com- 
pelled to "find a school ... to teach 
me something." Female academies 
were rare. She settled upon the Clin- 
ton Liberal Institute in Clinton, New 
York, and took as many classes as 
possible in her course. 

The institute was, in many ways, 
an ideal academy for Barton. The 
school's liberal philosophy and broad 
approach to education for women 
corresponded with her family's lib- 
eral traditions and her own political 
and religious feelings. Moreover, the 
climate of New England and New 
York in the 1830s and 1840s was one 
of intellectual and moral progressive- 
ness: Horace Mann instituted far- 
reaching educational reforms in Mas- 
sachusetts; Ralph Waldo Emerson 
wrote about the philosophic basis of 
human liberty; religion lost its evan- 
gelistic approach; William Lloyd 
Garrison expounded on the plight of 
the enslaved black; and a few women 

such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton real- 
ized that their position was little bet- 
ter than that of slaves and protested 
against it. 

None of this activity was lost on 
Clara Barton, who possessed an in- 
nate sense of honesty and justice. 
She became an early advocate of 
rights for women. "I must have been 
born believing," she wrote, "in the 
full right of woman to all the privi- 
leges and positions which nature and 
justice accord her in common with 
other human beings. Perfectly equal 
rights — human rights. There was 
never any question in my mind in re- 
gard to this." She supported the 
cause of woman suffrage, for she 
maintained that while a woman was 
denied the vote she "had no rights 
and . . . must submit to wrongs, and 
because she submits to wrongs she 
isn't anybody." Yet she steadfastly 
asserted her rights and deemed it 
"ridiculous that any sensible, rational 
person should question it." Although 
she did not participate in women's 
rights rallies until later in her life, 
she always acted on her principles. In 
February 1861, for example, Barton 
began to champion the cause of her 
cousin, Elvira Stone, a postmistress 
who was about to lose her job to a 
man. Barton laid the unpleasant facts 
before her friends in Washington 
without hesitation: "As Cousin El- 
vira had never taken any parts [sic] 
in politics . . . political tendencies 
can scarcely be made a pretext, nei- 
ther incompetence, neglect of busi- 
ness, location or lack of a proper rec- 
ognition of, or attention to, the 
wants of the community in any man- 
ner — And it would not look well to 
commence a petition with Mankind 
being naturally prone to selfishness 
we hereby etc., etc. — And I have 


Stephen Barton was a descen - 
dant of Edward Barton who had 
come to Salem, Massachusetts, 
in 1640. Stephen, born in 1774, 
served in the Indian Wars in 
Ohio Territory during the 1790s 
under Mad Anthony Wayne. 

David Barton was a keen horse- 
man. In later years Clara 
Barton referred to him as the 
"Buffalo Bill of the neighbor- 
hood" when recalling the 
events of her childhood. David 
and his brother Stephen owned 
and operated a satinet mill; 
satinet was a kind of cotton 


been able to divine nothing except 
that she is guilty of being a woman." 
By April she had secured her 
cousin's position. She dryly remarked 
that Elvira Stone was certainly enti- 
tled to it, for, "I have never learned 
that the [post office] proceeds arising 
from the female portion of the corre- 
spondence of our country were de- 
ducted from the revenue." 

Barton felt that by winning such 
small battles, her larger feminist 
principles were upheld. But her real 
contribution in these early years was 
her own attitude and actions. By 
demonstrating that her talents, cour- 
age, and intellect were undeniably 
equal to a man's she quietly fur- 
thered the women's cause as much as 
parades and speeches did. "As for 
my being a woman," she told the 
men who questioned her, [you] will 
get used to that." 

Her interest in the extension of lib- 
erties for women was not selfishly in- 
spired. Rather it was a product of 
her deep-rooted sense of integrity 
and fairness. She believed rigidly in 
human rights, especially in the rights 
of those unable to defend or help 
themselves. "What is everybody's 
business is nobody's business," Bar- 
ton once declared. "What is 
nobody's business is my business." 
Her advocacy of equality colored her 
political views. 

Neither could Barton tolerate dis- 
honesty and petty arrogance. More 
than once during the Civil War she 
railed against "the conduct of im- 
proper, heartless, unfaithful Union 
officers" who blithely ignored the 
plight of the "dirty, lousy, common 
soldiers." She expected high stand- 
ards of politicians, soldiers, and 
schoolboys alike. Once when a for- 
mer pupil had misused some money 

she had entrusted to him, she la- 
mented: "I am less grieved by the 
loss than I am about his manner of 
treating my trust. ... I am as square 
as a brick and I expect my boys to be 

In 1852, Barton demonstrated the 
sincerity of her principles in a dra- 
matic way. She left Clinton to stay 
with a schoolmate near Bordentown, 
New Jersey, and taught at a private 
subscription school, for there were 
no free public schools. She felt un- 
easy about the numbers of children 
whose parents could not afford pri- 
vate instruction, and she began to ag- 
itate for a free school. But the popu- 
lar view was that free schools were a 
form of charity. She refused to give 
in and eventually swayed the local 
school board. A small house was out- 
fitted, and she began to lead one of 
the first free schools in the state. 

The Bordentown free school was a 
pronounced success. In its first year 
the number of pupils rose from 6 to 
600, and the town built a new school- 
house. The town, however, could not 
accept a woman as the head of a 
school of 600 pupils and a man was 
named principal. She became his as- 
sistant. "I could bear the ingratitude, 
but not the pettiness and jealousy of 
this principal." 

Whether the pettiness was real or 
imagined, Barton could not endure a 
secondary position. While she de- 
bated resignation, her nerves gave 
way, causing a case of laryngitis. 
Early in 1854, she resigned and left 
for Washington, D.C., where she 
hoped to improve her health and "do 
something decided" with her newly 
realized "courage and tolerable fac- 
ulty of winning [her] way with 

Barton's health did improve in 


James Buchanan (1791-1869) 
held several public offices 
before becoming President in 
1857. He was a member of the 
Pennsylvania House of Repre- 
sentatives and of the U.S. 
House of Representatives and 
Senate. He was secretary of 
state for James K. Polk and 
ambassador to Great Britian 
during the Presidency of Frank- 
lin Pierce. As President he felt 
powerless to deal with the 
States that seceded in the last 
months of his administration 
though he abhorred their 
actions. He retired to his home 
in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. 

Washington, and she was soon able 
to "do something decided." Charles 
Mason, the commissioner of patents, 
hired her as a clerk. At this time no 
women were permanently employed 
by the Federal Government though 
previously there had been. Most offi- 
cials agreed with Secretary of the In- 
terior Robert McClelland who de- 
clared that there was an "obvious 
impropriety in the mixing of the two 
sexes within the walls of a public of- 
fice." She gained the confidence of 
Commissioner Mason, however, and 
became his most competent and 
trusted clerk. Moreover, she combat- 
ted the many dishonest clerks who 
sold patent privileges illegally. The 
whole affair, she concluded, made 
quite a commotion, and the clerks 
"tried to make it too hard for me. It 
wasn't a very pleasant experience; in 
fact it was very trying, but I thought 
perhaps there was some question of 
principle involved and I lived through 

Although she lost her job at the 
Patent Office under the Buchanan 
administration in 1856, Barton was 
reappointed late in 1860. She en- 
joyed living in Washington, for she 
was fascinated by politics and liked 
knowing such prominent figures as 
Massachusetts Senator Henry Wil- 
son. She often sat in the Senate gal- 
lery to watch the proceedings and be- 
came astute and well-informed on 
political matters. 

Clara Barton was still a clerk at 
the Patent Office when the Civil War 
began. Like many other intelligent 
and independent women of her day, 
she was often filled with restless dis- 
content, probably stemming from 
having more to give than life de- 
manded. Her job as Patent Office 
clerk demanded little but self-efface- 


ment and neat penmanship. The con- 
flict that arose in 1861 provided her 
with an outlet for her energy and sat- 
isfied her longing to lose herself in 
her work and to be needed. 

Doing Something Decided 

When President Lincoln issued 
his call for volunteers to main- 
tain the Union, the response 
was immediate and troops be- 
gan heading for Washington. 
Some Massachusetts volun- 
teers passing through Balti- 
more, which was decidedly 
Southern in sentiment, were 
attacked bv local citizens. 

In late April 1861, less than two 
weeks after the bombardment of Fort 
Sumter in South Carolina, the Mas- 
sachusetts Sixth Regiment arrived in 
Washington, D.C., from Massachu- 
setts. This regiment hailed from the 
Worcester area and many of the men 
were friends or former pupils of 
Clara Barton. Their train was 
mobbed while passing through Balti- 
more, and Barton, concerned that 
one of her "boys" might have been 
injured, rushed to their temporary 
quarters in the Senate Chamber. She 
found the Regiment unharmed, but 
sadly lacking in basic necessities — 
"towels and handkerchiefs . . . serv- 
ing utensils, thread, needles . . . 
etc." She bought and distributed as 
many of these items as she could, 
then wrote to the anxious families in 
Massachusetts to send preserved 
fruits, blankets, candles, and other 
supplies to supplement the unreliable 
army issues. "It is said upon proper 
authority, that 'our army is sup- 
plied,' " she wrote to a group of la- 
dies in Worcester, "how this can be 
so I fail to see." When the generous 
New Englanders inundated her with 
useful articles and stores, Barton's 
home became a virtual warehouse. 
"It may be in these days of quiet 
idleness they have really no pressing 
wants," she observed, "but in the 
event of a battle who can tell what 
their needs might grow to in a single 
day?" Such garnering of supplies 
against unforeseen disaster eventu- 
ally became a central characteristic of 


her relief work in the years to come. 

Barton's earliest concern with aid- 
ing the Union army stemmed from 
her loyalty to the Massachusetts 
men. She felt a personal involvement 
with those who "only a few years ago 
came every morning . . . and took 
their places quietly and happily 
among my scholars" and an alle- 
giance to others from her home 
state. "They formed and crowded 
around me," she noted. "What could 
I do but go with them, or work for 
them and my country? The patriot 
blood of my father was warm in my 

Her patriotism also was aroused by 
the Union cause. Although she main- 
tained that the purpose of the war 
was not solely to abolish slavery, she 
also held little sympathy for the 
Southern way of life and aligned her- 
self with such Republicans as Henry 
Wilson who believed that historically 
the Southern states had conspired to 
tyrannize the North. "Independ- 
ence!" she once scoffed, "they al- 
ways had their independence till they 
madly threw it away." She was exhil- 
arated. "This conflict is one thing 
I've been waiting for," she told a 
friend, "I'm well and strong and 
young — young enough to go to the 
front. If I can't be a soldier I'll help 
soldiers." And feeling even more ex- 
alted, she declared that "when there 
is no longer a soldier's arm to raise 
the Stars and Stripes above our Capi- 
tol, may God give strength to mine." 

For a year Barton contented her- 
self with soliciting supplies. Then, as 
the horrible effects of battle were re- 
ported in Washington, she began to 
think of aiding soldiers directly on 
the battlefield. She had visited hospi- 
tals and invalid camps, but what dis- 
turbed her most were the tales of 

suffering at the front. Soldiers often 
had wounds unnecessarily compli- 
cated by infection due to neglect, or 
died of thirst while waiting for trans- 
portation to field hospitals. Nurses 
were urgently needed at the battle- 
field, but she wondered if it was 
seemly for a woman to place herself 
directly in the lines of battle: "I 
struggled . . . with my sense of pro- 
priety, with the appalling fact that I 
was only a woman whispering in one 
ear, and thundering in the other 
[were] the groans of suffering men 
dying like dogs." 

Her father encouraged her to go 
where her conscience directed. When 
Captain Barton died in March 1862, 
she felt that her duties to the family 
had closed. She petitioned Massachu- 
setts Gov. John Andrew and other 
government officials for permission 
to join General Burnside's division at 
the front. Late in the summer of 
1862, at the Battle of Cedar Moun- 
tain, Virginia, she "broke the shack- 
les and went to the field." 

At Cedar Mountain, and the sub- 
sequent second battle of Bull Run, 
she began a remarkable service 
which continued to the end of the 
war. Here, for the first of many 
times, Barton and her "precious 
freights" were transported in railroad 
cars or by heavy, jolting army wag- 
ons to a scene of utter desolation and 
confusion. When she arrived at Bull 
Run, 3,000 wounded men were lying 
in a sparsely wooded field on straw, 
for there was no other bedding. Most 
had not eaten all day; many faced 
amputations or other operations. She 
was unprepared for such carnage, but 
she distributed coffee, crackers, and 
the few other supplies she had 
brought. With calico skirt pinned up 
around her waist, she moved among 


4. ,-Sjsk *&|«> VU t- ■ i, 


Andersonville prison camp in Georgia 

r >-£;§£ ; ; 

Confederate dead at Ant ie tarn 


the men and prayed that the combi- 
nation of lighted candles and dry 
straw would not result in a fire that 
would engulf them. 

Scanty as her supplies were, Bar- 
ton's aid was timely and competent. 
An army surgeon, Dr. James I. 
Dunn, wrote to his wife: "At a time 
when we were entirely out of dress- 
ings of every kind, she supplied us 
with everything, and while the shells 
were bursting in every direction . . . 
she staid [sic] dealing out shirts . . . 
and preparing soup and seeing it pre- 
pared in all the hospitals. ... I 
thought that night if heaven ever sent 
out a homely angel, she must be one, 
her assistance was so timely. " 

Dunn's letter was widely published 
during the Civil War, and he was 
embarrassed that his private por- 
trayal of Barton as a "homely angel" 
ever saw print. She, too, seems to 
have been embarrassed, for she 
crossed the word out on the newspa- 
per clippings she kept and substituted 
the word "holy" for "homely." Al- 
though the original letter shows that 
Dunn did indeed mean "homely," 
Barton's biographers have taken 
their cue from her and given her the 
title "the holy angel." 

These early battles taught Clara 
Barton how poorly prepared the 
Union army was for the immense 
slaughter taking place and how im- 
mediate battlefield aid meant much 
more than a battalion of nurses back 
in Washington. 

In quick succession the battles of 
Fairfax Court House and Chantilly 
followed second Bull Run. A sur- 
geon recalled that at Chantilly "we 
had nothing but our instruments — 
not even a bottle of wine. When the 
[railroad] cars whistled up to the sta- 
tion, the first person on the platform 

was Miss Barton again to supply us 
with . . . every article that could be 
thought of. She staid [sic] there till 
the last wounded soldier was placed 
on the cars." She worked for five 
days in the pouring rain with only 
two hours of sleep. As at all battles, 
she took time to jot down the names 
of many wounded men, so that their 
families could be informed. 

Barely two weeks later, on Sep- 
tember 14, she again went to the 
field, this time with advance informa- 
tion about a battle to be fought near 
Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West 
Virginia). She arrived too late but 
rushed on to Antietam, which she 
reached at the height of battle on 
September 17. Once again, she 
cooked gruel, braved enemy fire to 
feed the wounded, and provided sur- 
geons with precious medical supplies. 
She had a narrow escape from death 
when a bullet passed under her arm, 
through the sleeve of her dress, and 
killed the wounded soldier cradled in 
her arms. 

In all this fury, Barton was un- 
flappable. At the Battle of Freder- 
icksburg in December 1862, "a shell 
destroyed the door of the room in 
which she was attending to wounded 
men," recalled co-worker Rev. CM. 
Welles. "She did not flinch, but con- 
tinued her duties as usual." And she 
was working at the Lacy House, 
where hundreds of men were crowd- 
ed into 12 rooms, when a courier 
rushed up the steps and placed a 
crumpled, bloody slip of paper in 
her hands. It was a request from a 
surgeon asking her to cross the Rap- 
pahanock River to Fredericksburg 
where she was urgently needed. As 
always, hospital space was inade- 
quate, and dying men, lying in the 
December chill, were freezing to the 


ground. With shells and bullets whis- 
tling around her, Barton bravely 
crossed the swaying pontoon bridge. 
As she reached the end of the bridge 
an officer stepped to her side to help 
her down. "While our hands were 
raised, a piece of an exploding shell 
hissed through between us, just be- 
low our arms, carrying away a por- 
tion of both the skirts of his coat and 
my dress." She made her way into 
Fredericksburg without further mis- 
hap. She was lucky; the gallant offi- 
cer who helped her on the bridge 
was brought to her a half hour 
later — dead. 

Bravery and timeliness were con- 
spicuous elements of Barton's Civil 
War service. But of equal importance 
was her compassion for the individ- 
ual soldier. And she treated the 
wounded of both sides alike. Her re- 
lief work was also notable for its re- 
sourcefulness. She built fires, ex- 
tracted bullets with a pocket knife, 
made gallons of applesauce, baked 
pies "with crinkly edges," drove 
teams, and performed last rites. 
When all other food gave out she 
concocted a mixture of wine, whis- 
key, sugar, and army biscuit crumbs. 
"Not very inviting," she admitted, 
"but always acceptable." When she 
lacked serving implements, she emp- 
tied jars of fruit and jelly and used 
them. When tired she propped her- 
self against a tent pole or slept sitting 
up in a wagon. The common soldier 
remembered her sympathy and tend- 
erness, the officer her calmness and 
alert activity under fire. 

As historian R. H. Bremer notes, 
Barton viewed her role in the war as 
something of a family matter. If she 
was a "ministering angel," she was 
also "everybody's old-maid aunt" — 
fussing over "my boys," worrying 


over clothes and food, and treating 
the men as fond nephews. Much of 
her success with quartermasters, offi- 
cers, and men was due to this atti- 
tude, which eclipsed suspicion of her 
as a woman and radiated the senti- 
mentality of the time. 

She pursued her self-appointed 
task with remarkable tenacity. Her 
contribution was unique, for she 
worked directly on the battlefield, 
not behind the lines in a hospital. 
She worked primarily alone — and 
liked it that way. Although she re- 
spected such organizations as the 
Sanitary Commission, she felt that by 
working independently she could 
comfortably assist where she saw 
need. She wanted to be her own boss 
and be appreciated for her individual 
efforts. She did not seek glory, but 
she needed praise and did not wish 
to have it bestowed on the name of 
an impersonal group or commission. 

There is no question that Clara 
Barton hugely enjoyed acclaim. She 
liked being in the inner elite of war- 
time politics, for it gave her the 
chance to shine as a personality, to 
be revered as an "Angel of the Bat- 
tlefield." In later life she enjoyed 
trips to Europe that amounted to 
triumphal tours. 

Barton's relief work benefitted 
her in another way. Throughout 
her life she was self-conscious 
and introspective, preoccupied with 
small personal incidents which she 
magnified out of proportion to 
their importance. She once described 
herself as "like other people . . . 
only sometimes a 'little more so,' ' 
and the description is apt. She was 
inwardly pessimistic, and highly sen- 
sitive to criticism. She confided to 
her diary that she felt "pursued by a 
shadow" and spent years with 

Continues on page 30 

'They Saw in High Purpose a Duty to Do 

Clara Barton was not the only civilian who 
ministered to the wounded during the Civil 
War. The nature of this conflict was so per- 
sonal and so immediate that many hundreds of 
volunteers gave enormously of their time in 
hospitals and on the field. In the North, Doro- 
thea Dix interrupted her pre-war work with 
the insane to become superintendent of Fe- 
male Nurses; Walt Whitman, Louisa May Al- 
cott, Frances Dana Gage, and "Mother" Mary 
Ann Bickerdyke are a few of the other famous 
names connected with such service. Of especial 
importance were the Christian and Sanitary 
Commissions, organizations which worked with 
the government in camp and on the battlefield 
to improve the lot of the Union soldier. In the 
Confederacy, stringent financial conditions and 
widely scattered population prevented relief 
efforts from being as organized as those of the 
North. But charity had a deep-rooted meaning 
for the Southern cause, and self-denial became 
a matter of pride. "We had no Sanitary Com- 
mission in the South," wrote one Confederate 
veteran, "we were too poor. . . . With us each 
house was a hospital." 

The United States Sanitary Commission was 
established in April 1861. It was originally de- 
signed for inquiry into the health of the troops 
and as an advisory board to the government 
on improvement of sanitary conditions in the 
army. In the early months of the war, the San- 
itary Commission attempted to methodize the 
fragmented benevolent efforts of the Union. It 
fought favoritism to particular regiments with 
equitable distribution of supplies, administered 
from a network of regional and local auxili- 
aries. By 1863, however, the commission was, 
of necessity, drawn to the battlefield, where it 
established hospital and transport ships, supply 
stations, and gave direct aid to the wounded. 
Several million dollars were raised by the com- 
mission through "Sanitary Fairs," large fund- 
raising bazaars. At one point the Sanitary 
Commission had more than 500 agents work- 
ing in the field. By its impartiality and organi- 
zation, the Sanitary Commission was the fore- 
runner of the Red Cross in concept, if not in 

Another organization, drawn along similar 
lines, was the United States Christian Commis- 
sion. Established by a group of New York 
churches in 1862, its object was to "give relief 
and sympathy and then the Gospel." Volun- 
teers in the Christian Commission were called 
"Ambassadors of Jesus; " they were chosen 

Dorothea Dix (1802-87) started 
teaching Sunday School at the 
East Cambridge House of Cor- 
rections in Massachusetts in 
1841. The appalling conditions 
she observed there spurred her 
to attempt to reform prisons 
and mental institutions. This 
work preoccupied her the rest 
of her life. She died in Trenton, 
New Jersey. 

*From Clara Barton's poem, 

"The Women Who Went to the Field." 


"They would stand with you now, as they stood with you then, 

The nurses, COnSOlerS and Saviors Of men." The Women Who Went to the Field 


largely from the ranks of clergymen and 
YMCA members but many women were 
among its workers. The Christian Commission 
did give battlefield relief, and sought to supply 
reading material, clothing, and medicine. 

Clara Barton was familiar with these organi- 
zations, and, especially in the latter part of the 
war, often worked alongside them. But though 
she wrote publicly that their labor was always 
in "perfect accord, mutual respect and friendli- 
ness, " she chose to work alone rather than 
align herself too closely with the commissions. 
Barton's natural leadership and difficulty in 
working with others prompted her to remain 
independent, where she would not be "com- 
promised by them in the least." Furthermore, 
she secretly scorned the commissions' work, 
which she thought inexperienced and impracti- 
cal: "an old fudge" she called the Sanitary 
Commission in her journal. 

Barton also chose not to work with Doro- 
thea Dix's "Department of Female Nurses." A 
compulsive humanitarian worker, Dix had vol- 
unteered her services to the War Department 
at the opening of hostilities. Her offer was ac- 
cepted and Dix began the impossible task of 
collecting supplies, selecting nurses, and super- 
vising hospitals for the Union army. Dix was a 
perfectionist and her dogmatic and strident 
opinions won her few friends. But her sharp 
altercations with physicians and officers re- 
sulted more from frustration because she could 
not relieve the massive misery, than from an 
over-bearing personality. Feeling that she had 
failed to achieve her mission, Dix wrote at 
war's end: "This is not the work I would have 
my life judged by." 

The use of female nurses was an innovation 
during the Civil War and Dix was anxious for 
the women under her to be taken seriously. 
Fearful that nursing would become a sport 
among adventurous young women, she laid 
down stringent and inflexible rules for nurses. 
These rules would have greatly hampered 
Clara Barton's independent spirit and this is 
one reason she chose not to join Dix's force. 

In addition to the official organizations there 
were numerous "unsung heroes" during the 
Civil War. Most notable were the religious 
orders such as the Sisters of Charity who 
calmly defied the army's restrictions and 
worked both at the front and in hospitals. De- 
spite the fact that such diverse groups inevita- 
bly caused conflicts and jealousies, the Civil 
War provided a field large enough for all of 
the humanitarian organizations which labored 
in it. 

Mary Ann Bickerdvke 

Walt Whitman 


"scarcely one cheerful day." Periodi- 
cally she became so depressed that 
she could not "see much these days 
worth living for; cannot but think it 
will be a quiet resting place when all 
these cares and vexations and anxie- 
ties are over, and I no longer give or 
take offense. I . . . have grown 
weary of life at an age when other 
people are enjoying it most.' 1 

While aiding others, Barton, for a 
time, forgot herself. Her "work and 
words," she insisted, were solely 
bound up in "the individual soldier — 
what he does, sees, feels, or thinks in 
. . . long dread hours of leaden rain 
and iron hail." As she gained self- 
confidence and acclaim, she shed her 
morbid introspection. Once when she 
was asked if her work had been in- 
teresting, she gave a revealing reply: 
"When you stand day and night in 
the presence of hardship and physical 
suffering, you do not stop to think 
about the interest. There is no time 
for that. Ease pain, soothe sorrow, 
lessen suffering — this is your only 
thought day and night. Everything, 
everything else is lost sight of — your- 
self and the world." 

In April 1863, Barton transferred 
her base from Washington to Hilton 
Head Island off the coast of South 
Carolina. She had been advised that 
a major siege of Charleston would 
be attempted and believed she could 
be most useful there. She also hoped 
to be closer to her brothers: Stephen 
lived behind Confederate lines in 
North Carolina, and David had been 
sent by the army to Hilton Head in 
the early days of 1863. 

During the eight-month siege of 
Charleston, she worked on the bat- 
tlefields of Morris Island and Fort 
Wagner and helped nurse soldiers 
dying of malaria and other tropical 

fevers. Charleston proved to be a 
less active spot than anticipated, 
however, and this fact, coupled with 
a growing rift between Barton and 
hospital authorities, led her to leave 
the area in January 1864. She re- 
turned to Washington, where she 
continued to gather supplies as she 
awaited her next chance for service. 

Her chance came in May 1864, 
when "the terrible slaughter of the 
Wilderness and Spotsylvania turned 
all pitying hearts once more to Fred- 
ericksburg." Here she witnessed 
some of the most frightening scenes 
she ever encountered. Fifty thousand 
men were killed or wounded in the 
Wilderness Campaign. "I saw many 
things that I did not wish to see and 
I pray God I may never see again," 
she told a friend. Rain turned the 
red clay soil of Virginia to deep mud, 
and hundreds of army wagons, 
crowded full of wounded and suffer- 
ing men, were stuck in a tremendous 
traffic jam. "No hub of a wheel was 
in sight and you saw nothing of any 
animal below its knees." 

She immediately set about feeding 
the men in the stalled wagons, but 
another, more appalling situation 
arose. Some "heartless, unfaithful of- 
ficers" decided that it was, in fact, a 
hardship on the refined citizens of 
Fredericksburg to be compelled to 
open their homes as hospitals for 
"these dirty, lousy, common 
soldiers." Always a champion of the 
"army blue" against the "gold 
braid," she hurried to Washington to 
advise her friend Henry Wilson of 
the predicament. Wilson, chairman 
of the Senate Military Affairs Com- 
mittee, swiftly warned the War De- 
partment. One day later the homes 
of Fredericksburg were opened to 
Union soldiers. She returned to the 


battlefield with additional supplies 
and continued to help the wounded. 
"When I rose, I wrung the blood 
from the bottom of my clothing be- 
fore I could step, for the weight 
about my feet." 

After the Wilderness Campaign 
she served as a supervisor of nurses 
for the Army of the James, under 
Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, until Janu- 
ary 1865. She organized hospitals and 
nurses and administered day-to-day 
activities in the invalid camps that re- 
ceived the wounded from Cold Har- 
bor, Petersburg, and other battles 
near Richmond. Many of these sol- 
diers remembered her thoughtful- 
ness. If a wounded man requested 
codfish cakes "in the old home way," 
he most likely got them; a young sol- 
dier, wasted to a skeleton, was tend- 
erly cared for until his relatives ar- 
rived to take him home; requests to 
have letters written were never too 
much trouble. 

At the end of the Civil War an ex- 
hausted Clara Barton felt certain of 
one thing: "I have labored up to the 
full measure of my strength." And 
she labored without pay and often 
used her own funds to buy supplies. 
In the field she shared the conditions 
of the common soldier: "I have al- 
ways refused a tent unless the army 
had tents also, and I have never 
eaten a mouthful . . . until the sick 
of the army were abundantly sup- 
plied." Her pragmatic judgment and 
ability to work under the most dan- 
gerous and awkward of conditions 
earned her the respect of surgeons 
and generals who ordinarily consid- 
ered they had "men enough to act as 
nurses" and did not want women 
around to "skeddadle and create a 
panic." General Butler described her 
as having "executive ability and kind- 

Throughout the Civil War Ben- 
jamin Butler (1818-93) was a 
controversial figure as he in- 
variably was at odds with the 
national administration on the 
treatment of the civilian pop- 
ulation and the black slaves. 
Leaving the Army, he went into 
politics and served in the U.S. 
Congress and one term as gov- 
ernor of Massachusetts. It was 
as governor that he appointed 
Clara Barton superintendent of 
the Women 's Reformatory at 


Frederick Douglass (18177-95) 
was born in Talbot County, 
Maryland, the son of a white 
man and a slave woman. He was 
an eloquent spokesman for 
American blacks before and 
after the Civil War and spent 
his life fighting for equality. He 
was appointed U.S. minister to 
Haiti in 1889. 

heartedness, with an honest love of 
the work of reformation and care of 
her living fellow creatures." 

Barton's perceptive and sympa- 
thetic nature led her to foresee innu- 
merable social problems after the 
Civil War. A champion of the under- 
dog, she was concerned with the pre- 
carious situation of the newly freed 
slaves. What she saw on her travels 
to the South was alarming: unedu- 
cated, dependent blacks were being 
duped by their former masters, and 
freedom was, in many cases, a bur- 
den, not a blessing. Few blacks knew 
of the laws passed for their benefit 
and many did not understand that 
they must continue to work. She ob- 
served that the former "owners were 
disposed to cheat [a] great many." 
Wherever she went, Barton tried to 
explain the law and the meaning of 
freedom to the blacks, many of 
whom walked great distances to ask 
her advice. 

Barton, however, did more than 
advise. She consulted with Senator 
Wilson about the best possible per- 
sonnel for the Freedman's Bureau 
and lobbied Congress for a bill allow- 
ing blacks to use surplus army goods. 
She attended meetings of the Freed- 
man's Aid Society and sent reports 
on blacks' conditions to the Freed- 
man's Bureau. She also worked for 
the extension of suffrage through 
"Universal Franchise" meetings and 
the American Equal Rights Associa- 
tion; she spoke at their rallies and 
formed lifelong attachments with 
such prominent leaders as Frederick 
Douglass and Anna Dickenson. Dur- 
ing October of 1868, she began to 
formulate a plan for helping "the col- 
ored sufferers." The plan, modelled 
on the work of Josephine Griff ing, 
apparently involved the use of aban- 


doned barracks and former hospitals 
near Washington for "Industrial 
Houses." Here Freedmen could learn 
a trade and be "provided with the 
means of self-support and so com- 
mand the respect of [their] former 
masters." She discussed her ideas 
with several people, but unfortu- 
nately, the project was dropped be- 
cause of her failing health. 

Barton remained a staunch ally of 
blacks during her lifetime. Blacks 
employed by her received wages con- 
sistent with those of whites and gen- 
erally received additional training 
and education. When few other char- 
itable groups were willing to aid 
blacks who were the victims of natu- 
ral disasters, such as the storm that 
hit the Sea Islands of South Carolina 
in 1893, Barton's Red Cross never 
hesitated. And those who denied the 
bravery or competence of black 
troops in the Civil or Spanish-Ameri- 
can Wars found her an outspoken 
opponent. Made honorary president 
of a society honoring soldiers of the 
Spanish-American War, she resigned 
when she found that it was open only 
to whites. 

At the same time she was promot- 
ing the enfranchisement of freedmen, 
she embarked on a project aimed at 
diminishing another major post-war 
problem: the whereabouts of thou- 
sands of missing soldiers. She appre- 
ciated the difficulty of keeping accu- 
rate records in the confusion of 
battle and understood that it was 
often nearly impossible to recognize 
the dead, or identify individual 
graves among the hastily dug com- 
mon trenches. Her wartime note- 
books and diaries are filled with 
names of missing and wounded sol- 
diers and lists of those who died in 
her arms with perhaps no one else to 

know their fate. With official permis- 
sion from President Lincoln, she de- 
vised a plan to identify missing sol- 
diers by publishing in newspapers 
monthly rolls of men whose families 
or friends had inquired. Any person 
with information could write to her 
and she would forward it to those 

As she went about her work she 
learned that not everyone was willing 
to be found. Soldiers who were at- 
tached to Southern sweethearts, who 
had deserted, or who simply wished 
to start a new life, preferred to re- 
main missing. One young man 
wanted to know what he had done to 
have his name "blazoned all over the 
country" in newspapers. "What you 
have done ... I certainly do not 
know," she replied. "It seems to 
have been the misfortune of your 
family to think more of you than you 
did of them, and probably more than 
you deserve from the manner in 
which you treat them. ... I shall in- 
form them of your existence lest you 
should not 'see fit' to do so 

In all, Barton's "Office of Corre- 
spondence with Friends of the Miss- 
ing Men of the United States Army" 
worked for four years to bring infor- 
mation to more than 22,000 families. 
The most help she received came 
from a young man named Dorence 
Atwater, a former Andersonville 
prisoner. He fortuitously had copied 
the names of more than 13,000 men 
who had died during his confine- 
ment. With his aid, she identified all 
but 400 of the Andersonville graves 
and caused the camp to be made a 
National Cemetery. 

Atwater's help was invaluable, and 
he became a close personal friend. 
She was highly indignant when the 


Federal Government arrested Atwa- 
ter on charges that his death list was 
government property. Federal offi- 
cials claimed that he had "stolen" 
back the list after turning it over to 
the War Department. The case ap- 
pears to have been actually based on 
confusion and a stubborn refusal of 
both sides to back down, but Clara 
Barton was incensed. She fought for 
Atwater's release with every influen- 
tial person she knew; she advised 
and prompted his statements from 
prison and carried on a monumental 
publicity campaign to elicit public 
sympathy. Largely because of her ef- 
forts, he was freed. 

Atwater's defense and her work 
with the missing men further devel- 
oped her publicity efforts, which she 
had used so effectively in the Civil 
War. As time went on, her relief 
work relied more and more on public 
support. "We enter a field of dis- 
tress," she wrote, "study conditions, 
learn its needs, and state these facts 
calmly, and truthfully to the people 
of the entire country through all its 
channels of information and leave 
them free to use their own judgments 
in regard to the assistance they will 
render." Still, she knew how to pub- 
licize her causes dramatically. In 
1886, when a tornado struck Mount 
Vernon, Illinois, she wrote: "the piti- 
less snow is falling on the heads of 
3,000 people who are without homes, 
without food, or clothing." The re- 
sponse was immediate. 

Oral publicity also proved helpful 
during her attempt to identify miss- 
ing men. In 1866, she began a suc- 
cessful lecture tour that publicized 
both her cause and her name. She 
gave lectures throughout the North 
and West and was featured on tours 
with such prominent speakers as 

Ralph Waldo Emerson, William 
Lloyd Garrison, and Mark Twain. 
Her talks centered on "Work and In- 
cidents of Army Life." The flyer por- 
trayed her lectures as "exquisitely 
touching and deeply interesting, fre- 
quently moving her audience to 
tears." As always, she enjoyed the 
notoriety and in her diary wrote a 
flattering description of herself at the 
lecturn: "easy and graceful, neith[er] 
tall nor short, neithjer] large nor 
small . . . head large and finely 
shaped with a profusion of jet-black 
hair . . . with no manner of orna- 
ment save its own glossy beauty. . . . 
She [is] well dressed. . . . Her voice 
... at first low and sweet but falling 
upon the ear with a clearness of tone 
and distinctness of utterance at once 
surprising and entrancing." 

Although she enjoyed being in the 
limelight, many of her old insecuri- 
ties returned. "All speech-making 
terrifies me," she said, "first I have 
no taste for it, lastly I hate it." In 
1868, while delivering a lecture in 
Boston, she suffered what was appar- 
ently a nervous breakdown and was 
ordered by her doctors to recuperate 
in Europe. 

The periodic nervous disorders she 
suffered appear to have been directly 
related to her sense of usefulness. 
When she was not working, her diary 
entries often begin "Have been sad 
all day," or "This was one of the 
most down-spirited days that ever 
comes to me." She once remarked 
that nothing made her so sick of life 
as to feel she was wasting it. As long 
as she was needed, admired, de- 
manded, she could perform near mir- 
acles of self-denial and courageous 
action. When the crisis ebbed, she 
became despondent and sick, requir- 
ing attention of a different sort. As a 


single woman, often removed from 
her family, she had no other way to 
attract notice than to excel as an in- 
dividual. When such an opportunity 
faded, or when she found herself an 
object of criticism, she was, in sev- 
eral senses, prostrated. When her in- 
terest was again aroused by the 
chance of giving service, her health 
and spirits rebounded. 

Battling for Ratification 

Jean-Henri Dunant 

Clara Barton arrived in Great Britain 
in late August 1869 with no definite 
plans. Her doctors had ordered rest 
and a change of scene. She toured 
London, visited Paris, then pro- 
ceeded to Geneva. She thought she 
might stay in Switzerland, but the de- 
pressing fall weather changed her 
mind; she moved to Corsica, seeking 
sun and wishing to visit the haunts of 
her longtime hero, Napoleon I. 

She was ill, edgy, and demanding. 
Corsica, although beautiful, did not 
suit her and by March she was back 
in Geneva. Here, by chance, she was 
introduced to Dr. Louis Appia, a 
member of the International Com- 
mittee of the Red Cross. This organi- 
zation was the result of the Geneva 
Convention of 1864, which produced 
a treaty dealing with the treatment of 
wounded and sick soldiers, prisoners 
of war, and civilians under wartime 
conditions. The convention was in- 
spired by a book entitled Un Souve- 
nir de Solferino (A Memory of Sol- 
ferino), in which author Jean-Henri 
Dunant described the horrors of the 
Battle of Solferino. At the time of 
her meeting with Appia, she had not 
heard of the Geneva Convention 
nor of Dunant. When she finally 
read Dunant's work, she must have 
identified strongly with it, for he ex- 
pressed perfectly the concern for the 


individual which had prompted Bar- 
ton's Civil War aid: "A son idolized 
by his parents, brought up and cher- 
ished for years by a loving mother 
who trembled with alarm over his 
slightest ailment; a brilliant officer 
beloved by his family, with wife and 
children at home; a young soldier 
who had left sweetheart or mother, 
sisters or old father to go to war; all 
lie stretched in the mud and dust, 
drenched in their own blood." 

At their first meeting, Appia asked 
Barton why the United States had 
not signed the Treaty of Geneva. A 
U.S. delegate, Charles Bowles, had 
been at the Geneva Convention, and 
Dr. Henry Bellows, president of the 
Sanitary Commission, had urged the 
government to accede to the treaty. 
But the United States remained the 
only major nation that had not ac- 
cepted the international pact. Barton 
said a key factor was probably the 
American public's almost total igno- 
rance about the treaty, and she asked 
Appia to provide her with further in- 
formation about the International 
Red Cross. 

Barton soon found reason, in her 
words, "to respect the cause and ap- 
preciate the work of the Geneva 
Convention." On July 19, 1870, 
France declared war on Prussia. She 
was restless and excited by hearing 
guns at practice and wrote to Appia, 
offering her services to the Red 
Cross. Before he could reply, how- 
ever, she made her way to Basel, 
Switzerland, where she worked with 
Red Cross volunteers making band- 
ages. This tame work exasperated 
her. "It is not like me, nor like my 
past to be sitting quietly where I can 
just watch the sky reddening with the 
fires of a bombarded city and . . . 
have [nothing] to do with it." De- 

spite her frustration, Barton's work 
in Basel gave her great respect for 
the garnering power of the Red 
Cross. Its warehouses were stocked 
with supplies of all kinds, and trained 
nurses and clerks wearing Red Cross 
armbands stood ready to assist. "I 
. . . saw the work of these Red Cross 
societies in the field, accomplishing 
in four months under this systematic 
organization what we failed to ac- 
complish in four years without it — no 
mistakes, no needless suffering, no 
starving, no lack of care, no waste, 
no confusion, but order, plenty, 
cleanliness, and comfort wherever 
that little flag made its way, a whole 
continent marshalled under the ban- 
ner of the Red Cross — as I saw all 
this, and joined and worked in it, 
you will not wonder that I said to 
myself, 'If I live to return to my 
country, I will try to make my people 
understand the Red Cross and that 
treaty.' " 

The opportunity to be useful and 
to forget petty irritants restored her 
health. "I am so glad to be able to 
work once more," she told her cou- 
sin, Elvira Stone, "I have worked 
... all year, and grown stronger and 
better." She then made her way to- 
ward the battlefields of France ac- 
companied by Antoinette Margot, a 
young Swiss woman. On their way 
toward Mulhouse, where several bat- 
tles had been reported, they met 
hundreds of refugees who pleaded 
with them to turn back. But when 
they encountered trouble from Ger- 
man troops, Barton brought out a 
sewing kit and speedily tacked a 
cross of red ribbon onto the sleeve of 
her dress. Thus began her first serv- 
ice under the Red Cross badge, 
which she would wear long and 


Barton was disappointed to learn 
that she was not needed at the front, 
but she found her niche elsewhere. 
As she traveled through France, she 
wrote to newspaper editor Horace 
Greeley that she had seen deserted 
fields, "crops spoiled ... by both 
friend and foe. Her producing popu- 
lation stands under arms or wasting 
in prisons — her hungry cattle slain 
for food or rotting of disease — her 
homes deserted or smouldering in 
ashes." When Louise, grand duchess 
of Baden and a Red Cross patron, 
asked her to help establish hospitals 
and distribute clothing to destitute 
civilians, she undertook the work 
with zeal. 

Barton's accomplishments during 
the Franco-Prussian War lay mainly 
in aid to civilians. Her most notable 
work was in Strasbourg, where she 
used her powers of organization and 
publicity to establish a sewing center 
to clothe the city's destitute popula- 
tion. In a letter to a generous Eng- 
lish philanthropist in May 1871, she 
wrote: "Thousands who are well to- 
day will rot with smallpox and be de- 
voured by body-lice before the end 
of August. Against . . . these two 
scourges there is, I believe, no check 
but the destruction of all infected 
garments; hence the imperative ne- 
cessity for something to take their 
place. Excuse, sir, I pray you, the 
plain ugly terms which I have em- 
ployed to express myself; the facts 
are plain and ugly." 

Barton did not confine her activity 
to Strasbourg. After eight months 
work, she left her sewing establish- 
ment in the hands of local officials 
and journeyed to Paris where she 
distributed clothing, money, and 
comfort to citizens. From Paris she 
went to Lyons and surveyed the sur- 

Wilhelm I, Emperor of Germany 

Continues on page 40 


Jean-Henri Dunant and the Geneva Convention 

On June 24, 1859, forces commanded by 
French Emperor Napoleon III and Austria's 
Emperor Franz Josef, met on the battlefield of 
Solferino, in Northern Italy. More than 40,000 
men were killed or wounded in the battle, and 
towns and villages throughout the area became 
temporary, crude hospitals. In nearby Castig- 
lione, a stranger, dressed in white, watched 
with horror as dazed and suffering soldiers 
were slowly brought from the battlefield only 
to be met with a shortage of doctors, inade- 
quate accommodations, and an appalling lack 
of food and supplies. With spirit and speed 
"the man in white" began to recruit local 
peasants for volunteer service and to procure 
badly needed bandages, water, and food. 

The "man in white" — Jean-Henri Dunant — 
was not new to philanthropic endeavors. Born 
in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1828, he came of a 
well-to-do family with a strong religious back- 
ground and a tradition of public service. As a 
young man Dunant had been an instigator of 
the movement that created the Young Men's 
Christian Association (YMCA), which he 
hoped would promote fellowship and under- 
standing between young men of many cultural 
backgrounds. Until the age of 30, Dunant was 
a banker, with business interests throughout 
Europe and Northern Africa. In June of 1859, 
these financial affairs took him to Castiglione. 

In a sense, Dunant never completely left 
Solferino. The many startling scenes he wit- 
nessed there continued to crowd his mind. 
"What haunted me," wrote Dunant, "was the 
memory of the terrible condition of the thou- 
sands of wounded." This horrible remembr- 
ance of men dying, often for want of the sim- 
plest care, inspired him to publish in 1862 a 
vivid account of the battle and its conse- 
quences. The book was called Un Souvenir de 
Solferino (A Memory of Solferino). 

The realistic descriptions, and the compas- 
sion for the individual soldier shown in Dun- 
ant's book created an immediate sensation in 
Europe. Un Souvenir de Solferino wasted little 
space on the traditional "glories" of war; Dun- 
ant was more interested in the plight of the 
"simple troopers . . . [who] suffered without 
complaint . . . [and] . . . died humbly and qui- 
etly." The book advocated a radically new 
concept of charitable action: that all of the 
wounded, friend and foe alike, should be 
cared for. He had been inspired, said Dunant, 
by the Italian peasant women who murmured 
"tutti fratelli" (all are brothers) while treating 
the hated Austrians. Near the end of the book 
was a brief paragraph, destined to have dra- 
matic impact on the humanitarian efforts of 

the world: "Would it not be possible," wrote 
Dunant, "in time of peace and quiet, to form 
relief societies for the purpose of having care 
given to the wounded in wartime of zealous, 
devoted and thoroughly qualified volunteers?" 

The simple question may have been over- 
looked by readers caught up in the battle 
scenes of Un Souvenir de Solferino. But it 
caught the imagination of one influential man: 
Gustav Moynier, a citizen of Geneva who 
headed the charitable "Committee for the 
Public Benefit." Moynier introduced a practi- 
cal direction to Dunant's dreams. He con- 
tacted Dunant, and together they established a 
committee, headed by Moynier, and including 
the commanding general of the Swiss Army, 
Guillaume Dufour. Two distinguished doctors, 
Louis Appia and Theodore Maunoir, com- 
pleted the "Committee of Five." This commit- 
tee immediately began plans for an interna- 
tional convention to discuss the treatment of 
the wounded in wartime. 

In February 1863, 16 nations met in Geneva 
to discuss "the relief of wounded armies in the 
field." Dunant's proposals were debated and 
an informal list of agreements was drawn up. 
This agreement established the national volun- 
teer agencies for relief in war. Then, in August 
1864 a second conference was held which pro- 
duced the international pact, known as the 
Treaty of Geneva. The treaty rendered "neu- 
tral and immune from injury in war the sick 
and wounded and all who cared for them." To 
distinguish the neutral medical personnel, sup- 
plies and sick, an international badge was 
needed. Out of respect for Dunant and the 
country which had been host of the conven- 
tions, the design adopted was that of the re- 
versed Swiss flag. Those working under the 
Treaty of Geneva would thereafter be recog- 
nized by the emblem of a red cross on a white 
flag. The United States signed this treaty on 
March 16, 1882. 

Jean-Henri Dunant's generous dream had 
been fulfilled, but he obtained no glory or rec- 
ognition for many years. Dunant had neglected 
his business interests while promoting the Ge- 
neva conventions. By 1867 he was bankrupt 
and spent most of his remaining life a pauper. 

However, Dunant did live to receive, jointly 
with Frederic Passy, the first Nobel Peace 
Prize in 1901. It was a fitting tribute to the 
man who, in the words of Gustav Moynier, 
"opened the eyes of the blind, moved the 
hearts of the indifferent, and virtually effected 
in the intellectual and moral realm the refor- 
mation to which [he] aspired." 


In 1864, 11 European nations 
agreed to the terms of the Treaty 
of Geneva, which established 
the Red Cross. This painting, 
by Charles Edouard Armand- 
Demaresq, shows the ceremony 
of signing the treaty. 


rounding countryside for a relief 
headquarters, finally settling in Bel- 
fort. This small border town had 
heroically withstood Prussian fire for 
more than eight months. The people 
were "very poor and their ignorance 
. . . something deplorable," noted 
Antoinette Margot. Many of the citi- 
zens had never seen paper money — 
so Barton used only coins — and less 
than one in 15 could write his name. 
Her activities were still loosely tied 
to the Red Cross, but in most cases 
she used her own judgment to come 
to terms with the destitution she 
found. Money was given according to 
need, solace indiscriminately. Des- 
perate mobs often stormed the home 
of "Monsieur l'Administrateur" in 
which she was staying; assistant Mar- 
got was "amused ... to see Miss 
Barton protecting her policemen" and 
pacifying the crowds with her digni- 
fied bearing and calm admonition to 
"wait a little and be quiet." Barton 
tried to help the anxious families of 
prisoners who had lost their means of 
support and provided some relief for 
the French leaving German-occupied 
Alsace. Margot later remarked that 
she wished "that her own people 
could see their country-woman at 
work among European poor as not 
one European has done." 

When the hostilities between 
France and Prussia ended, and with 
it the need for Barton's help, her 
health again declined. Despite the 
decorations of several governments, 
she was despondent. Her eyes gave 
out, her nerves collapsed. She had 
over-taxed herself in nerve-shattering 
situations, and she suffered, in part, 
because she had never really learned 
to care for herself. Troubled 
throughout her life by insomnia, she 
often worked on four or five hours 


German soldiers rout French troops at Bazeilles, France, during the Franco-Prussian War. 


sleep. A sometimes vegetarian, she 
took no pains to correctly nourish 
herself; dinner was too often a large 
red apple or nothing at all. It is 
understandable, in the light of this 
negligence and spiritual decline, that 
she suffered a relapse into her old 
nervous disorders. 

For a time Barton stayed in Ger- 
many. She then traveled with friends 
throughout Italy, a tour highlighted 
by a visit to Mt. Vesuvius. In May 
1872, she visited the Riviera and 
traveled via Paris to London. Though 
somewhat improved, she was still 
weak, and her restlessness increased 
daily. She stayed in London for more 
than a year, made many friends, en- 
joyed horse shows and Madame Tus- 
saud's, and took part in a congress 
on prison reform. But all the time 
she pondered her fate, bemoaned the 
sacrifice of her time, and let small in- 
cidents unduly rankle. For a while 
she considered writing for newspa- 
pers, but she felt too listless. Visits 
from a niece, from the grand duchess 
of Baden, who had become her de- 
voted friend, and from Antoinette 
Margot could not rouse her. Finally, 
on September 30, 1873, she sailed on 
the Parthia for the United States, 
still worried and uncertain about her 
future. "Have ye place, each beloved 
one, a place in your prayer," she 
plaintively asked in a poem written 
aboard the Parthia, "Have ye work, 
my brave countrymen, work for me 

Barton hoped to recover her spirits 
in America. Unfortunately, only a 
few months after her return, she re- 
ceived word that her sister, Sally, 
was critically ill. She hurried from 
Washington, D.C., to Oxford, Mas- 
sachusetts, only to find that Sally's 
death had preceded her arrival by 

hours. This blow was devastating; 
she collapsed utterly. A year later, 
still shaky and depressed, she faced 
the death of Henry Wilson, her polit- 
ical ally and close friend. 

Barton was in serious need of a 
restful atmosphere. Through a young 
woman in Worcester she learned of a 
sanitarium at Dansville, New York, 
where the patients were treated with 
a popular "water cure." There she 
found "congenial society, wholesome 
and simple food, and an atmosphere 
that believed health to be possible." 
Her health did indeed improve at 
Dansville. She eventually bought a 
house there, and made the small 
town her home for the next ten 
years. She participated in plays, at- 
tended and gave lectures, went on 
outings with other patients, and en- 
joyed her position as the town's most 
celebrated citizen. And, after one of 
her lectures, she met one of the most 
influential people in her life: Julian 
Hubbell, a young chemistry teacher 
at Dansville Seminary. They became 
friends, and when she told him of the 
Treaty of Geneva and how she 
hoped for its adoption in the United 
States, Hubbell asked what he could 
do to help. "Get a degree in medi- 
cine," she advised, and Hubbell com- 
plied. He left his teaching position 
and entered the University of Michi- 
gan medical school in 1878. 

Julian Hubbell remained uncom- 
promisingly loyal to Barton. When 
the American Red Cross was estab- 
lished, he became its chief field 
agent. As such he participated in 
more actual relief work than she did. 
His skillful organization and quiet 
control were directly responsible for 
much of the success of the early Red 
Cross. Upon her resignation, he too 
gave up his career. 


During the Civil War Henry 
Bellows (1814-82) founded and 
served as president of the 
United States Sanitary Com- 
mission. He had graduated 
from Harvard University at the 
age of 18 and five years later 
from Harvard Divinity School. 
He worked first in Louisiana 
and Alabama, but his career 
began in earnest when he be- 
came pastor of New York City's 
Unitarian Church of All Souls. 
Throughout his life, he was 
known as an inspirer of people. 

In the late 1870s, Barton began to 
be active again in political affairs. 
Her long interest in women's rights 
was re-kindled, especially by Harriet 
Austin, a doctor at the sanitarium. 
For a time, Barton adopted the 
mode of Austin's dress reform — 
loose, corsetless garments, which in- 
cluded baggy trousers. It pleased her 
to "shed flannels" and dress "just as 
free and easy as a gentleman, with 
lots of pockets, and perambulate 
around to suit herself." In 1876 she 
advocated a series of dress reform 
meetings and helped Susan B. An- 
thony compile biographies of noted 
women. In 1878, she participated in 
suffrage conventions in Washington, 
D.C., and Rochester, New York. 

As Barton's health improved she 
also renewed her interest in estab- 
lishing the Red Cross in the United 
States. She knew that her first step 
was to obtain the official sanction of 
the International Red Cross Commit- 
tee and spent much of 1877 and 1878 
corresponding with Dr. Louis Appia 
about a plan for promoting the Red 
Cross. Always jealous of her position 
as sole representative of the cause, 
Barton was not above discrediting 
both Charles Bowles and Henry Bel- 
lows, early advocates of the Red 
Cross in America. Bowles is "utterly 
unreliable . . . and . . . never worthy 
of confidence," Barton wrote to Ap- 
pia, and Bellows "wears [his title of 
representative] as an easy honor, and 
it never occurs to him that he is re- 
tarding the progress of the world." 
Neither allegation was true. But Bar- 
ton gained the official blessing of the 
international committee, and as their 
representative began her crusade for 
ratification of the Treaty of Geneva. 

Her first concern was to educate 
the public, for she had found that 


Frances Dana Gage (1808-84) 
found time while raising eight 
children to write and speak on 
temperance, slavery, and 
women s rights. Her anti- 
slavery activities in Missouri 
met with a hostile reception. 
During the Civil War she helped 
former slaves adjust to freedom. 
In her later years she wrote 
children 's stories. 

"the knowledge of [the] society and 
its great objects in this country ... is 
almost unknown, and the Red Cross 
in America is a mystery." In 1878, 
she published a small pamphlet enti- 
tled "What the Red Cross Is." She 
realized that the American public did 
not expect to be engaged in another 
war and emphasized peacetime uses 
of the Red Cross. Red Cross action 
against natural disasters had actually 
been proposed by Henri Dunant in 
the third edition of Un Souvenir de 
Solferino, but in her pamphlet she 
gave it priority. "To afford ready 
succor and assistance in time of na- 
tional or widespread calamities, to 
gather and dispense the profuse lib- 
erality of our people, without waste 
of time or material, requires the wis- 
dom that comes of experience and 
permanent organization." 

Barton also began mentioning the 
Treaty of Geneva in occasional lec- 
tures to veterans and local citizens. 
She wrote persuasively to influential 
friends, such as Benjamin F. Butler, 
and former minister to France Elihu 
B. Washburne. "I am not only a pa- 
triotic but a proud woman," she told 
Washburne, "and our position on 
this matter is a subject of mortifica- 
tion to me. I am humbled to see the 
United States stand with the barba- 
rous nations of the world, outside the 
pale of civilization." Other friends, 
among them Frances Dana Gage and 
Mrs. Hannah Shepard, wrote articles 
advocating establishment of the Red 
Cross. Barton labored many hours to 
translate, write, and explain mate- 
rials on the Red Cross to influential 
men in New York and Washington. 

The same year, 1878, she pre- 
sented information concerning the 
Red Cross to President Rutherford 
B. Hayes. She also delivered an invi- 


tation to the United States from In- 
ternational Red Cross president Gus- 
tav Moynier to join the association. 
But she found little enthusiasm in the 
Hayes administration. A fear of "en- 
tangling alliances" with other coun- 
tries still prevailed and the State De- 
partment shied away from permanent 
treaties. Furthermore, the treaty had 
previously been submitted by Dr. 
Bellows, and the Grant Administra- 
tion had rejected it. Hayes consid- 
ered the subject closed. 

When a Congressional joint resolu- 
tion to ratify the Treaty of Geneva 
was tabled early in 1879, she shelved 
her own plans for a while, traveled 
between New York State and Wash- 
ington, D.C., lectured some, and en- 
tertained relatives at her Dansville 
home. But she remained alert for an 
opportunity, and when James A. 
Garfield ran for President in 1880, 
she campaigned in his behalf. With 
his election that November, she 
hoped for a more sympathetic admin- 
istration. To her relief, she found 
both Garfield and Secretary of State 
James Blaine interested. Plans were 
made to submit the treaty to the Sen- 
ate for ratification, and she contin- 
ued to lobby senators. 

In June 1881, with success in sight, 
Barton and a few friends formed the 
first American Association of the 
Red Cross. She was elected presi- 
dent, an office she originally planned 
to keep only until the Treaty of Ge- 
neva was signed. The organization's 
main purpose at this stage was to 
promote adoption of the treaty, with- 
out which the body had no interna- 
tional authority or recognition. The 
first local chapter of the American 
Red Cross, and the first to give ac- 
tual aid, was established at Dans- 
ville, New York, in August 1881. 

Even with the organization estab- 
lished, Barton's trials were not over. 
The assassination of President Gar- 
field in the summer of 1881 deterred 
the process of ratification by several 
months. She also was concerned 
about the many rival organizations 
that were mushrooming around her. 
The "Red Star," "Red Crescent," 
and "White Cross" all appeared. 
One group, the "Blue Anchor," 
posed a threat to the treaty ratifica- 
tion, for several senators' wives be- 
longed to it and were openly hostile 
to her. The rival charities irritated 
her, and she let herself indulge in 
self-pity and undue alarm. "There is 
in all the world, not one person who 
will come and work beside me to es- 
tablish the justice of a good cause," 
she wrote. "It is only natural that I 
should long to be out of the human 
surroundings which care so little for 

Barton need not have worried so 
much. The new President, Chester 
A. Arthur, was an advocate of the 
Red Cross, and when she called 
upon the Secretary of State early in 
1882 he showed her the treaty, al- 
ready printed, awaiting only the rec- 
ommendations of the Senate and of- 
ficial signatures. As she read it, 
Barton began to weep, for, as a cou- 
sin remarked, "her life and hope 
were bound up in it." On March 16, 
1882, she received a note from Sena- 
tor Elbridge Lapham informing her 
of "the ratification by the Senate of 
the Geneva Convention; of the full 
assent of the United States to the 
same." "Laus Deo" concluded the 
note, but to Barton it was almost an- 
ticlimactic. "I had waited so long," 
she wrote in her journal, "and was 
so weak and broken, I could not 
even feel glad." 


Clara Barton's success in securing 
ratification of the Treaty of Geneva 
is perhaps her most outstanding 
achievement. Primarily through her 
writing, speeches, and dedication the 
public and U.S. officials came to 
know of the Red Cross. For six years 
she persisted in lobbying Congress; 
the treaty ultimately passed without a 
dissenting vote. And, although she 
"could not believe that someone 
would not rise up" to help her, no 
one ever did. The American National 
Red Cross remains a monument to 
Barton's singular perseverance and 
her powers of persuasion. 

Barton and the Red Cross 
in Action 

When many people are closing 
out their careers, Clara Barton 
was just beginning her most 
important work. 

Clara Barton was 60 years old when 
the Treaty of Geneva was ratified by 
the Senate. She at first considered 
her work completed. But the imme- 
diate demands made on the young 
American Red Cross changed her 
mind; she felt it would be foolish to 
put the Red Cross into other hands. 

Barton stamped the early Red 
Cross decisively with her personality. 
She was a woman of strong will and 
deliberate action, with, as biographer 
Percy Epler states, "a just and accu- 
rate estimate of her own power to 
master a situation." By the 1880s, 
she was accustomed to being in com- 
mand. She could, and did, inspire 
great loyalty — Antoinette Margot's 
letters to her customarily begin "My 
own so precious, so precious Miss 
Barton," or "So dear, so preciously 
loved Miss Barton" — though some 
complained that she demanded, 
rather than deserved the fealty. Bar- 
ton left no doubt that she alone gov- 
erned the Red Cross and that all 
others were subordinate. One of her 
most loyal aides referred to her as 
"the Queen." 


She had a sharp intellect, was able 
to see issues clearly, and was articu- 
late. Although she had clear-cut 
opinions on nearly every subject, she 
was loath to force her ideas on 
others. Dr. Hubbell, writing after her 
death, maintained that she disliked 
controversy and would almost never 
argue, "but when she did speak she 
could tell more facts to the point . . . 
with no possibility of misunderstand- 
ing than any person I have ever 

She was confident when she was in 
control of a situation, but she had 
difficulty working with others. She 
was a perfectionist. Determined al- 
ways to do things in her own way, 
she early decided "that I must attend 
to all business myself . . . and learn 
to do all myself." Secretaries and 
servants came and went, but few 
ever satisfied her exacting demands. 
In her own endeavors she could tol- 
erate no rival, but she did not aspire 
to widespread power. 

Privately Barton was often very 
different from her public image. Crit- 
icism was taken with apparent calm 
and stoicism, but inwardly she 
burned and fought the temptation 
"to go from all the world. I think it 
will come to that someday," she 
sadly noted, "it is a struggle for me 
to keep in society at all. I want to 
leave all." Her temper was also con- 
trolled and betrayed itself only by a 
deepening of her voice and a sharp- 
ness in her eyes. She was socially in- 
secure and given to self-dramatiza- 
tion. She often exaggerated her 
hardships to elicit pity or respect. 
For example, she frequently spoke of 
sitting up all night on trains as both a 
measure of economy and a guard 
against unnecessary personal luxury, 
yet her diaries contain numerous ref- 

erences to comfortable berths. Sev- 
eral times she wrote flattering arti- 
cles about herself, in the third 
person, which she submitted to var- 
ious periodicals. In one, written dur- 
ing the Franco-Prussian War, she 
showed the way she hoped the public 
would view her: "Miss Clara Barton, 
scarcely recovered from the fatigues 
and indispositions resulting from her 
arduous and useful duties during the 
War of the Rebellion, was found 
again foremost bestowing her care 
upon the wounded with the same as- 
siduity which characterized her 
among the suffering armies of her 
own country." 

Her depression and insecurity 
were, in most cases, undetectable to 
others. What they noticed were her 
humanitarian feelings and deep and 
abiding empathy for those who suf- 
fered. Her friend, the Grand Duch- 
ess Louise, thought of her as "one of 
those very few persons whose whole 
being is goodness itself." Biographer 
and cousin William E. Barton re- 
called that she "did not merely sym- 
pathize with suffering; she suffered." 
Others were struck by her witty and 
spontaneous sense of humor. She 
told one friend that she was more 
thankful for her sense of humor than 
for any other quality she possessed, 
for it had helped her over hard 

Another of Barton's assets was a 
keen spirit of objectivity. William 
Barton noted that she rarely stood 
on precedent and that she tried to 
keep an open mind about people, 
methods of business, and herself. 
This openness is perceptible in her 
acceptance of startling changes. Rail- 
way travel, typewriters, automobiles, 
and airplanes were all taken in 
stride, and when telephones and 


electric lights became available she 
had them installed in her home im- 
mediately. She welcomed dress re- 
form, prison reform, and other social 
change. Clara Barton was a deter- 
mined, sensitive, competent, diffi- 
cult, and unpredictable woman, and 
she brought all of these qualities to, 
and etched them on, the American 
Red Cross in 1882. 

During the years that she was pres- 
ident of the American Red Cross, it 
was a small but well-known group. 
Her name lent power and respecta- 
bility to the Red Cross cause. The 
list of relief efforts undertaken in 
those early years is impressive — as- 
sistance at the sites of numerous nat- 
ural disasters, foreign aid to both 
Russia and Turkey, battlefield relief 
in the Spanish-American War. She 
participated in nearly all of the field 
work, which was her metier, for it 
combined her humanitarian senti- 
ments with her need to lose herself 
in her work and the remuneration of 

The first work undertaken by the 
Red Cross in America was actually 
done prior to the ratification of the 
Treaty of Geneva. In the fall of 

1881, disastrous forest fires swept 
across Michigan. Local Red Cross 
chapters at Dansville and Rochester, 
New York, sent money and materials 
amounting to $80,000, and Barton di- 
rected Julian Hubbell to oversee the 
work. Thus did Hubbell, still a medi- 
cal student at the University of Mich- 
igan, begin his career as chief field 
agent for the American Red Cross. 

From 1881 on, nearly every year 
saw the Red Cross actively engaged 
in the relief of some calamity. In 

1882, and again in 1884, the Missis- 
sippi and Ohio Rivers flooded, 
sweeping away valuable property, 

In early September 1881, 
Michigan farmers in "the 
Thumb " of the State were 
burning stubble left after the 
harvest. Aggravated by drought 
conditions, the fires spread to 
the dry forests. One estimate 
at the time stated that an area 
100 by 30 kilometers (60 by 20 
miles) was burned. 


leaving hundreds destitute and home- 
less. Relief centers were established 
in Cincinnati and Evansville, Indi- 
ana, and the Red Cross steamers, the 
Josh V. Throop and Mattie Belle, co- 
operated with government relief 
boats to supply sufferers cut off by 
water. All along the rivers, families 
were furnished with fuel, clothing 
and food, or cash. The Red Cross 
also undertook to relieve starving 
and sick animals by contributing 
oats, hay, corn, and medicine. Lum- 
ber, tools, and seeds were left to 
help the stricken rebuild their lives. 
Barton herself supervised the work 
on the Mattie Belle as it plowed its 
way between the cities of St. Louis 
and New Orleans. 

The American Red Cross did not 
attempt to supply every need in 
every instance, nor did it try to aid 
the victims of every calamity. A 
notable case in which the Red Cross 
declined to give aid occurred in 1887. 
A severe drought had plagued the 
people of northwestern Texas for 
several years; State and Federal aid 
had been denied and in desperation a 
representative of the stricken area 
applied to Barton for relief. She 
went directly to the scene, but she 
determined that what was needed 
was not Red Cross aid but an orga- 
nized drive for public contributions. 
Through the Dallas News she adver- 
tised for help and was delighted to 
find a quick response. 

Besides flood and fire relief, the 
young American Red Cross helped 
tornado victims in Louisiana and 
Alabama in 1883 and contributed in 
the relief of an earthquake at 
Charleston, South Carolina, in 1886. 
When a tornado struck Mount Ver- 
non, Illinois, in February 1888, Bar- 
ton and her co-workers organized the 


inhabitants so effectively that they 
needed to stay at the scene only two 

An outbreak of yellow fever in 
Jacksonville, Florida, also in 1888, 
precipitated the first use of trained 
Red Cross nurses, many of whom 
worked heroically. In one instance, 
ten of them jumped from a moving 
train to enter the small town of 
Macclenny, Florida, whose rail serv- 
ice had been stopped because of the 
fever's epidemic proportions. But un- 
fortunately the Jacksonville episode 
was not an entirely happy one. Bar- 
ton had a lifelong inability to pick 
qualified subordinates; in this case 
the man she chose to supervise the 
nurses — a Colonel Southmayd of the 
New Orleans Red Cross — had ex- 
tremely poor judgment. Southmayd 
found the Jacksonville workers to be 
"earnest and warm-hearted," but all 
evidence is to the contrary. Some 
nurses refused to work for three dol- 
lars a day when they could get four 
dollars in private hospitals. One got 
drunk on the whiskey used as medi- 
cine, another was arrested for theft, 
and several were accused of immoral 
conduct. Southmayd staunchly re- 
fused to remove the offending 
nurses, and for a time the incident 
put an unfortunate stigma on Red 
Cross workers. It also served to 
strengthen Clara Barton's determina- 
tion to oversee personally as much 
Red Cross field work as possible. 

The most celebrated peacetime re- 
lief work undertaken by the young 
American Red Cross was at Johns- 
town, Pennsylvania, in 1889. Johns- 
town, at the point where Stony 
Creek joins the Conemaugh River, 
often endured spring floods, but in 
May 1889 the rains were unusually 
heavy. After several days low-lying 

parts of Johnstown lay under 1 to 4 
meters (3 to 13 feet) of water. Then 
a dam broke in the mountains 16 
kilometers (10 miles) from the city. 
A wall of water, 9 meters (30 feet) 
high, rushed down to kill 2,200 peo- 
ple and destroy millions of dollars in 

Barton arrived in Johnstown five 
days after the tragedy on the first 
train that got through. She immedi- 
ately began work, using a tent as liv- 
ing and office space, and a dry goods 
box as a desk. From that desk she 
administered a program that 
amounted to half a million dollars, 
conducted a publicity campaign, and 
joined forces with the other charita- 
ble societies working in Johnstown. 
One of her aides recalled the long 
hours and complex work that charac- 
terized their five months in Johns- 
town and noted that through it all 
she remained "calm, benign, tireless 
and devoted." 

Barton's first concern was a ware- 
house for Red Cross supplies and 
under her direction workmen erected 
one in four days. She then turned to 
alleviating the acute housing short- 
age. Hotels, two stories high and 
containing more than 30 rooms each, 
were built and fully furnished to 
serve as temporary shelters. Crews of 
men were organized to clean up the 
wreckage, while women volunteered 
to oversee the distribution of clothing 
and other necessities. As in all its 
work, the Red Cross tried to supply 
jobs and a spirit of self-help along 
with material assistance. 

Clara Barton's organization was 
only one of many that came to the 
aid of Johnstown, but its contribution 
was outstanding for its quick thinking 
and tireless energy. Gov. James A. 
Beaver of Pennsylvania noted in a 



Floodwaters roamed through 
Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in 
1889, destroying a great number 
of homes and businesses. More 
than 2,200 persons lost their 


letter of appreciation to the Red 
Cross that "she was among the first 
to arrive on the scene of calamity. 
. . . She was also the last of the min- 
istering spirits to leave the scene of 
her labors." The city of Johnstown 
scarcely knew how to express its 
thanks. "We cannot thank Miss Bar- 
ton in words," an editorial in the 
Johnstown Daily Tribune stated. 
"Hunt the dictionaries of all lan- 
guages through and you will not find 
the signs to express our appreciation 
of her and her work. Try to describe 
the sunshine. Try to describe the 
starlight. Words fail." 

Field work took up a large portion 
of Barton's time in the 1880s, but she 
was able to pursue some other inter- 
ests and obligations. During 1883, for 
example, she was superintendent of 
the Women's Reformatory Prison at 
Sherborn, Massachusetts. She under- 
took the position at the request of 
former general, now Gov. Benjamin 
F. Butler, but she took it reluctantly. 
Her administration was characterized 
by the extension of dignity and edu- 
cation to inmates, rather than pun- 
ishment. She found the work annoy- 
ing and depressing, and she was glad 
to leave it and get back to the Red 

Between the burdensome paper 
work and correspondence of the Red 
Cross and actual relief work, Barton 
found time to be the official Ameri- 
can representative to four Interna- 
tional Red Cross conferences be- 
tween 1882 and 1902. She enjoyed 
these trips to Europe, for they gave 
her a chance to see friends and to be 
honored, as she always was by court 
and convention. The international 
congress of 1884, at Geneva, was es- 
pecially memorable. An "American 
Amendment" to the Geneva Treaty 

was adopted, and, as the head of the 
newest signatory power in the Red 
Cross she was the center of atten- 
tion. The amendment sanctioned 
Red Cross work in peacetime calami- 
ties and was the direct result of her 
activities in the United States. The 
congress cheered as she was praised 
as having "the skill of a statesman, 
the heart of a woman, and the 'final 
perserverance [sic] of the saints.' " 

Barton was also concerned with 
planning a national headquarters for 
the American Red Cross. In the 
1880s and early 1890s Red Cross 
headquarters were located at various 
spots in Washington, D.C. After 
1891, however, plans were made to 
build a permanent home for the or- 
ganization. Situated at Glen Echo, 
Maryland, a short distance outside 
Washington, the new building served 
both as office and home for Barton 
and her staff. 

What few hours she could spare 
from Red Cross activities she de- 
voted to raising the status of women. 
She was proud that the Red Cross 
embodied many of her beliefs. In the 
last two decades of the 19th century, 
she continued to speak at rallies and 
join conventions promoting women's 
rights. Her lecture topics generally 
centered on philanthropic work done 
by women, but she spoke out most 
vehemently on female suffrage. She 
was incensed that the decision to let 
women vote hinged upon the assent 
of male legislators, but she remained 
optimistic about the ultimate out- 
come. She told one lecture audience 
that "there is no one to give woman 
the right to govern herself. But in 
one way or another, sooner or later, 
she is coming to it. And the number 
of thoughtful and right-minded men 
who will oppose will be much smaller 


Despite bouts of nervousness 
Clara Barton enjoyed public 
speaking and was in great 
demand as a lecturer, talking 
either about her Civil War ex- 
periences or women Is rights. 





The Soldier's Friend, who gave her time and fortune daring the 
,-.tu to the Union cause, and who is now engaged in searching for 
; .e missing soldiers of the Union army, will address the people ol 







as cEJsrrs. 

than we think, and when it is really 
an accomplished fact, all women will 
wonder, as I have done, what the ob- 
jection ever was." 

Barton's prestige lent respect to 
the feminist cause, and she was in 
much demand as a lecturer and au- 
thor. In 1888 alone, she spoke in 
Montclair, New Jersey; Dansville, 
New York; Boston and Dorchester, 
Massachusetts, and was a vice presi- 
dent and featured speaker at the 
First International Woman's Suffrage 
Conference in Washington, D.C. 

Red Cross activities in the 1890s 
followed much the same pattern as 
those of the previous decade. Hub- 
bell and Barton oversaw relief to tor- 
nado victims in Pomeroy, Iowa, in 
1893, and helped those ravaged by a 
hurricane off the coast of South Car- 
olina in late 1893 and 1894. When 
news of a famine in Russia reached 
the United States, the American Red 
Cross obtained supplies, including 
500 carloads of corn given by Iowa 
farmers, and shipped them to Russia. 
The actual relief was relatively little, 
but it pioneered the concept of 
peacetime foreign aid. 

American money and supplies also 
were used to help victims of religious 
wars in Turkey and Armenia during 
1896. Although Turkey had signed 
the Treaty of Geneva, Red Cross ef- 
forts were at first resisted there. 
Under strong pressure from the 
American public, however, Barton 
and field workers of the American 
Red Cross sailed for Turkey. They 
gained admittance to the country and 
spent ten months helping the 
wounded and distributing tools and 
medical supplies. It was, in many 
ways, a harrowing experience, and 
the safety of the Americans was re- 
peatedly threatened. At least one of 


Barton's biographers, Blanche Col- 
ton Williams, thought that the Arme- 
nian relief work was the height of 
Barton's achievement. 

Despite all of Clara Barton's 
peacetime achievements, the Red 
Cross remained officially connected 
with the military, its chief function 
being to give medical aid in time of 
war. The Spanish-American War in 
1898 provided the first chance for the 
American Red Cross to serve in this 
official capacity. Unfortunately, the 
Red Cross effort was fragmented, 
marked by contention and contro- 
versy, and it ultimately led to the en- 
tire reorganization of the Red Cross 
in America. 

The Red Cross, under Barton, sent 
various types of assistance to Cuba. 
The earliest efforts, starting in Janu- 
ary 1898, were in behalf of the thou- 
sands of Cuban nationalists who had 
been herded into concentration 
camps by the Spanish colonial gov- 
ernment. Barton was giving civilian 
aid in Cuba when the battleship USS 
Maine blew up. When war was de- 
clared on April 25, 1898, Barton and 
her small crew went to work in field 
hospitals and hospital boats. She was 
distressed to find that once again the 
Army Medical Department had sent 
inadequate personnel, and that cots, 
food, and bandages were all lacking. 
"It is the Civil War all over," she la- 
mented, "no improvement in a third 
of a century." 

Meanwhile a controversy of dis- 
tressing proportions had developed 
within the Red Cross. A powerful 
local auxiliary of the American Red 
Cross, in New York, felt that the 
handful of workers led by 77-year-old 
Barton was not adequate to meet the 
needs of troops and civilians. This 
chapter, which became known as the 


Red Cross Relief Committee of New 
York, was, in many ways, more pow- 
erful than Barton's small national or- 
ganization. Where Barton's group 
had concentrated on "hand to 
mouth" relief efforts — those in which 
funds and supplies were given as 
soon as received — the New York or- 
ganization had gathered stores and 
funds, and had established a hospital 
and school for nurses, and formed 
nearly 200 relief auxiliaries. It col- 
lected and shipped many more arti- 
cles to Cuba during 1898 than did the 
national society and sent several 
times the number of trained nurses 
and doctors. The Red Cross Relief 
Committee of New York was profes- 
sionally run and its leaders were dis- 
tressed by Barton's lowscale personal 
style, which had changed little since 
the Civil War. 

As she tried to retain control of 
the relief efforts, the New York 
group fought for government sanc- 
tion as the sole agency of the Red 
Cross working in Cuba. Surgeon 
General George Sternberg favored 
the New Yorkers, but the secretary 
of state upheld Barton's claim. Little 
was resolved and the two organiza- 
tions continued to work indepen- 
dently. When the New York Com- 
mittee requested an accounting of 
funds spent in Cuba, of which it had 
supplied the bulk, Barton wired to a 
subordinate: "If insisted on refuse 
co-operation with [New York] com- 
mittee." Rivalry and jealousy took 
the place of collaboration. 

Barton viewed the New Yorkers as 
insurgents trying to usurp her glory. 
"The world in general is after me in 
many ways," she wrote. "I only wish 
I could draw out of it all." She be- 
lieved that the New Yorkers' func- 
tion should have been one of supply 

Continues on page 56 

Scenes from the Spanish-American War 

The Spanish-American War took place be- 
tween April 25, 1898, and August 13, 1898. 
Battles were fought in the Philippines and 
Puerto Rico, but most of the fighting was in 
Cuba. Public reaction to the oppressive Span- 
ish rule of Cuba initiated the conflict, when 
the battleship USS Maine exploded in Febru- 
ary 1898. Although it was never proven, the 
widespread belief was that the ship had been 
torpedoed by the Spaniards. Clara Barton vis- 
ited the Maine a few days before the disaster, 
and was nearby when the explosion occurred: 
"The heavy clerical work of that fifteenth day 
of February held [us] . . . busy at our writing 
tables until late at night. The house had grown 
still; the noises on the streets were dying away, 
when suddenly the table shook from under our 
hands, the great glass door opening on to the 
. . . sea flew open; everything in the room was 
in motion or out of place, the deafening roar 
of such a burst of thunder as perhaps one 
never heard before, and off to the right, out 
over the bay, the air was filled with a blaze of 
light, and this in turn filled with black specks 
like huge specters flying in all directions. A 
few hours later came . . . news of the Maine. 

"We proceeded to the Spanish hospital San 
Ambrosia, to find thirty to forty wounded — 
bruised, cut, burned; they had been crushed 
by timbers, cut by iron, scorched by fire, and 
blown sometimes high in the air, sometimes 
driven down through the red-hot furnace room 
and out into the water, senseless, to be picked 
up by some boat and gotten ashore. . . . Both 
men and officers are very reticent in regard to 
the cause, but all declare it could not have 
been the result of an internal explosion . . 

The earliest efforts of the Red Cross in 
Cuba were to aid the civilian reconcentrados 
who were being detained by the Spaniards. 
Medical aid, clothing, and food were distrib- 
uted, and hospitals and orphanages estab- 
lished. When fighting broke out, however, the 
Red Cross moved to supply the needs of the 
wounded. Clara Barton described the scene of 
one hospital camp in July 1898: "[We] reached 
here [General William Shafter's headquarters] 
yesterday. Five more of us came today by 
army wagon and on foot. Eight hundred 
wounded have reached this hospital from front 
since Sunday morning. Surgeons and little 
squads have worked day and night. Hospital 
accommodations inadequate and many 
wounded on water-soaked ground without 
shelter or blankets. Our supplies a godsend. 
Have made barrels of gruel and malted milk 
and given food to many soldiers who have had 
none in three days." 

Barton, as always, pursued her work with 
impartiality: Cubans, Spaniards, and Ameri- 
cans all received her care. Henry Lathrop, a 
doctor who worked for the Red Cross Com- 
mittee of New York felt this had a direct 
bearing on the outcome of the war. "Miss Bar- 
ton was everywhere among the Spanish sol- 
diers, sick, wounded and well. She was blessed 
by the enemies of her country and I seriously 
doubt if [General] Shafter himself did more to 
conquer Santiago with his men, muskets and 
cannon, than this woman. . . . The wounded 
men told their comrades about the kind treat- 
ment they had received at the hands of the 
Americans, and the news spread through the 
Army like wild-fire, completely changing the 
conditions. Those that preferred death to sur- 
render were now anxious to surrender." 

Despite such words of praise, Barton en- 
countered some of the same prejudices that 
had hindered her work during the Civil War. 
Lucy Graves, Barton's secretary, recorded that 
"some of the surgeons called on us; all seemed 
interested in the Red Cross, but none thought 
that a woman nurse would be in place in a sol- 
dier's hospital. Indeed, very much out of place." 

Most of the doctors changed their tune and 
were very happy to receive Barton's help and 
supplies during a battle. Another grateful re- 
cipient of Red Cross supplies was Col. Theo- 
dore Roosevelt, commander of the celebrated 
"Rough Riders." One day Roosevelt showed 
up at Red Cross headquarters requesting food 
and supplies for his sick men. "Can I buy 
them from the Red Cross?" he asked. 

"Not for a million dollars," Barton said. 

The colonel looked disappointed. He was 
proud of his men, and said they needed these 
things. "How can I get them?" he insisted. "I 
must have proper food for my sick men." 

"Just ask for them, colonel," she said. 

"Then I do ask for them" he said. 

"Before we had recovered from our sur- 
prise," related Barton, "the incident was 
closed by the future President of the United 
States slinging the big sack over his shoulders, 
striding off . . . through the jungle." 

Probably no thrill in Barton's life was 
greater than the honor accorded her after the 
fall of Santiago, Cuba. When this city was con- 
quered, the first vessel to enter the harbor was 
the Red Cross relief ship The State of Texas. A 
proud Barton stood on the deck of the ship 
and led the little band of Red Cross workers in 
singing the Doxology and "America." 


and support for her own group, and 
she could not understand why they 
criticized her for rushing off to give 
relief rather than staying at home to 
direct the organization. And she did 
not appreciate the problems that her 
absence from Washington caused. 
The Army, irritated by the internal 
strife in the Red Cross, supported 
neither group and offered little coop- 
eration. Thus, the relief effort in 
Cuba ended with minimal relief given 
and a divided American Red Cross. 

Storm and Controversy 

Clara Barton insisted that 
assistance and relief during 
peacetime become a standard 
Red Cross practice. Here the 
Red Cross gives help after the 
hurricane at Galveston, Texas, 
in 1900. 

T4 fuw 

To many members of the American 
Red Cross the work in the Spanish- 
American War exemplified all that 
was wrong with their organization: 
lack of coordination, and the arbi- 
trary and short-sighted rule of Clara 
Barton. Yet she seemed perfectly 
satisfied. In her book, The Red Cross 
in Peace and War (1898), she con- 
tended that the Red Cross took a 
major and laudatory part in the hos- 
pital operations in Cuba. She made 
no attempts at conciliation or com- 
promise with her critics and contin- 
ued to run the American Red Cross 
in the same individualistic style. 

It came as no surprise to those 
who knew Barton when she rushed 
once more to a scene of a disaster. 
In September 1900 a hurricane and 
tidal wave nearly submerged Galves- 
ton, Texas, and Barton, though 80 
years old, did not hesitate. Six weeks 
later she returned to Glen Echo 
laden with praise and testimonials 
that her achievements in Galveston 
were "greater than the conquests of 
nations or the inventions of genius." 

Her desire to remain in the field 
stymied the growth of the American 
Red Cross because she failed to dele- 
gate authority. When she spent six 


weeks or ten months away from 
Washington she left behind no orga- 
nization to continue day-to-day activ- 
ities, solicit contributions, or expand 
programs. Local chapters felt alien- 
ated from the national group and re- 
sented that they often provided the 
material support but saw little of the 
praise. One critic, Sophia Welk 
Royce Williams, wrote: "The Na- 
tional Red Cross Association in this 
country has been Miss Clara Barton, 
and Miss Clara Barton has been the 
National Red Cross Society. . . . 
[The Red Cross] has been of great 
service to suffering humanity, but 
when one asks for detailed reports, 
for itemized statements of disburse- 
ments . . . these things either do not 
exist or are not furnished." The better 
course, Williams believed, would 
have been for the Red Cross to 
adopt the organization of the Sani- 
tary Commission. Barton's group 
clearly lacked a national organiza- 
tion, a national board, and reports 
that would stand as models and 
guides for relief work. 

If the organization suffered, the 
quality of relief did not. At least one 
initially skeptical correspondent saw 
much to praise in the one-woman 
show. While visiting the hurricane- 
devastated Sea Islands in South Car- 
olina, Joel Chandler Harris wrote 
that the Red Cross's "strongest and 
most admirable feature is extreme 
simplicity. The perfection of its ma- 
chinery is shown by the apparent ab- 
sence of all machinery. There are no 
exhibitions of self-importance. There 
is no display — no tortuous cross-ex- 
amination of applicants — no needless 
delay. And yet nothing is done 
blindly, or hastily or indifferently." 

What Harris also saw was a con- 
certed effort to assist without the de- 

meaning effects of charity. Barton 
developed a knack for leaving a dis- 
aster area at the right time: "It is in- 
dispensable that one know when to 
end such relief, in order to avoid first 
the weakening of effort and powers 
for self-sustenance; second the en- 
couragement of a tendency to beg- 
gary and pauperism." 

During her 23-year tenure as presi- 
dent of the American Red Cross, 
Clara Barton was both its chief asset 
and its greatest liability. As founder 
and president she promoted the Red 
Cross cause with all of her consider- 
able talent, and she brought zeal and 
idealism to Red Cross relief work. 
At the same time, her domineering, 
and sometimes high-handed, ways 
hindered organizational growth. As 
Red Cross historian Foster Rhea 
Dulles notes, her methods of admin- 
istration were not always based on 
sound business practices and did not 
command the confidence of many 
people who might have given the as- 
sociation broader support. 

Barton's failure to delegate author- 
ity and to acknowledge popular con- 
tributions more formally provided 
the basis for the criticism that over- 
whelmed her between 1900 and 1904. 
It also accounted, at least in part, for 
the bitter personal attacks that led to 
a deepening feud between her friends 
and foes. Despite her adaptability in 
earlier days, it was almost impossible 
for her to adjust to the new condi- 
tions of Red Cross activity. 

The group that opposed her was 
made up of prominent Red Cross 
workers and was led by Mabel 
Boardman, an able and ambitious so- 
ciety woman. Boardman's group was 
anxious to see the Red Cross reorga- 
nized and their cause gained momen- 
tum during 1900 and 1901. Barton 


refused to consider it. Instead she di- 
vided the Red Cross into camps of 
"friends' 1 and "enemies. " She ac- 
cused her foes of seeking power and 
of trying to gain admission to the 
royal courts of Europe through the 
Red Cross. At the annual meeting in 
1902 after anticipating a move to 
force her resignation, she rallied her 
forces and emerged with greater 
powers and the presidency for life. 
"Perhaps not quite wise," she wrote, 
"in view of ugly remarks that may be 
made." For the opposition, who be- 
lieved that the new charter had been 
railroaded through, this was the last 

After the 1902 meeting Barton 
thought that "the clouds of despair 
and dread" had finally lifted, but 
events moved swiftly against her. 
Boardman's group succeeded in con- 
vincing President Theodore Roose- 
velt that she was mishandling what 
was, by then, a quasi-governmental 
office. On January 2, 1903, his secre- 
tary wrote to Barton stating that the 
President and Cabinet would not 
serve — as all of his predecessors 
had — on a committee of consultation 
for the Red Cross. The President di- 
rected his secretary to announce pub- 
licly his withdrawal from the Red 
Cross board. 

Barton was humiliated by the Pres- 
ident's clear endorsement of the op- 
position faction, but she was abso- 
lutely devastated by the subsequent 
decision to have a government com- 
mittee investigate the Red Cross. 
The official charges maintained that 
proper books of accounts were not 
kept, that funds and contributions 
were not always reported to the Red 
Cross treasurer, and that money was 
distributed in an arbitrary and incon- 
sistent manner. There was also a 

question about a tract of land located 
in Indiana that had been donated to 
the Red Cross but never reported to 
the organizational board. The 
charges were serious. Barton knew 
that she had often used only her own 
judgment to apportion relief funds 
and that she seldom kept accurate 
records in the field. She was so much 
a part of her organization that she 
often failed to differentiate between 
personal and Red Cross expenses — 
using her own funds for relief work 
and donations for private needs. Un- 
officially her foes also contended that 
she was too old and infirm to lead 
the Red Cross; they felt new blood 
was desperately needed. 

Barton was deeply wounded by the 
controversy swirling around her. A 
loyal and patriotic woman, she felt 
that her friends and country had de- 
serted her and that she had been 
scrupulously honest. For a time, she 
even considered fleeing to Mexico, 
but she was dissuaded by friends. 
Though the investigating committee 
dropped the charges, thereby com- 
pletely exonerating her from any 
wrongdoing, she felt the indignity for 
the rest of her life. 

It is ironic that the qualities Clara 
Barton cherished and exemplified 
most — loyalty and friendship, hon- 
esty and individual action — were the 
very ones in question during the in- 
vestigation. She could not admit de- 
feat, or even unconscious wrongdo- 
ing of any kind. There is no question 
that the time had come for her to 
give up leadership of the Red Cross, 
but it is sad that her foes could not 
have eased her out more gracefully 
or handled the situation with tact and 
sympathy. In May 1904, at the age of 
83, Clara Barton resigned as presi- 
dent of the American Red Cross. 


Theodore Roosevelt 

In retirement she broke all ties 
with the Red Cross but retained a 
lively interest in its activities. She 
often felt bitter about the events that 
preceded her resignation, and she 
particularly resented the way in 
which new Red Cross members were 
prejudiced against her — "ignorant of 
every fact, simply enemies by trans- 
mission." She was also critical of the 
way in which the new Red Cross 
leaders approached relief work, espe- 
cially during the San Francisco earth- 
quake of 1906. A small note of satis- 
faction is detected in a diary entry: 
"The President has withdrawn the 
distribution of public moneys contrib- 
uted for San Francisco from the Red 
Cross. ... He finds he made a mis- 
take in giving too much power to the 
Red Cross." 

Still, she usually wished the best 
for the Red Cross. Her "one great 
desire" was to "leave my little immi- 
grant of twenty-seven years ago a 
great National Institution." And she 
hoped her successors would be 
"freed from the severity of toil, the 
anguish of perplexity, uncertainty, 
misunderstanding, and often priva- 
tions, which have been ours in the 

One of her last public efforts was 
the formation, in 1905, of the Na- 
tional First Aid Society, which 
helped establish community aid pro- 
grams. "I thought I had done my 
country and its people the most hu- 
mane service it would ever be in my 
power to offer," commented Barton, 
"But . . . [the Red Cross] reached 
only a certain class. All the accidents 
concerning family life . . . manufac- 
tories and railroads . . . were not 
within its province. Hence the neces- 
sity and the opportunity for this 
broader work covering all." 

Continues on page 62 


"I Would Never Wear Undeserved Honors" 

Clara Barton was one of the most decorated 
women in United States history. In apprecia- 
tion of her courageous humanitarian services 
she received ten badges and medals from for- 
eign countries. Many of these medals were 
conferred upon her in person by such leaders 
as Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany and his 
daughter Louise, the grand duchess of Baden. 
In one instance, Abdul Mamed, the sultan of 
Turkey, was so impressed with Barton's meth- 
ods of relief work that he accompanied his 
medal with a message to the State Depart- 
ment: if America desired to send further relief 
to Turkey, please send Clara Barton and her 

Although she was never officially honored 
by the United States government. Barton re- 
ceived many private medals and honorary 
memberships from American organizations; 
the Loyal Legion of Women of Washington, 
D.C., the Waffengenossen (German-American 
soldiers who took part in the Franco-Prussian 
War), the Vanderbilt Benevolent Association 
of South Carolina, and the Ladies of Johns- 
town, Pennsylvania, were among those that 
honored Clara Barton in this way. One award 
she particularly valued was a medal presented 
to her in 1882 by the International Committee 
of the Red Cross, when America adopted the 
Treaty of Geneva. Barton was also proud of 
the numerous "royal jewels" which were gifts 
of her friends the grand duchess of Baden, and 
Augusta, empress of Germany. Barton's favor- 
ite among these was a large amethyst, carved 
in the shape of a pansy. 

She enjoyed her decorations without apol- 
ogy. They were in old boxes inside a "simple 
little wicker satchel," and she rarely let them 
out of her sight. She even took them with her 
when she traveled. Visitors to her Glen Echo 
home were always eager to see the medals, 
and Barton was eager to show them. She 
would spend hours telling stories about the 
decorations beginning with a gold Masonic em- 
blem. "My father gave it to me when I started 
for the front (during the Civil War)," Barton 
would say, "and I have no doubt that it pro- 
tected me on many an occasion." 

Many of her favorite tales involved the Iron 
Cross of Germany; one of these took place in 
Massachusetts. She had been invited to a ball 

Pansy carved from amethyst 

Iron Cross of Imperial Germany 

International Red Cross medal 


Cross of Imperial Russia 

at which she wore a number of her medals. "I 
was being whirled around the ballroom by 
some gallant or other when I saw three Ger- 
man officers looking curiously at me as I 
passed. I wondered for a moment but 
promptly forgot about it until, as we swung 
around the room again ... the music suddenly 
stopped short. Everyone was gazing about be- 
wilderedly, when I saw three officers advanc- 
ing toward me and stopping, in front of me, 
gave the full German military salute. I was 
thoroughly astonished, but rallied enough to 
return the salute, which I fortunately remem- 
bered." Barton thought the whole situation 
highly amusing. "They did not know who I 
was," she concluded, "they simply dared not 
pass the Iron Cross without saluting it." 

Another humorous incident involved one of 
Barton's royal jewels. Many of the decorations 
were valuable in themselves, for they were 
fashioned from gold and silver and set with 
diamonds, sapphires, and exquisite enamel 
work. However, one brooch in particular was 
precious: a large smoky topaz set in gold, and 
surrounded by 24 perfectly matched pearls, the 
gift of the grand duchess of Baden. Once Bar- 
ton took the brooch to Tiffany's in New York 
for repair. She was dressed simply, as was her 
habit, and an efficient floorwalker suspected 
that perhaps she was not the rightful owner of 
the jewel. Eventually a manager was brought 
in who recognized Barton and cleared up the 
matter. He then expressed his admiration of 
the topaz brooch, especially the 24 pearls. 
Clara Barton liked to remember how aston- 
ished the suspicious floorwalker was that "such 
a shabby woman should own such remarkable 

Barton enjoyed wearing her decorations as 
much as talking about them and she nearly al- 
ways pinned on several before addressing an 
audience, or attending a meeting. In her later 
years she was often seen weeding the garden 
or milking the cows with one or two medals 
attached to her cotton workdress. On one oc- 
casion she was nearly weighted down by simul- 
taneously wearing the Iron Cross, the Red 
Cross of Geneva, the Masonic badge, the Sil- 
ver Cross of Serbia, and the extremely heavy 
Empress Augusta Medal. Said Barton: "They 
do brighten up the old dress." 

Masonic emblem 


In the years that Clara Barton 
spent at Glen Echo, she came 
to love her house and yard. 
Here Dr. Hubbell Mary Hines, 
the housekeeper, and Clara 
Barton relax at the dinner table. 

The business of First Aid took up 
much of her time, but she continued 
her other interests. She attended and 
spoke at suffrage conventions and 
held a party for 400 feminists at her 
Glen Echo home. But she viewed 
with a jaundiced eye the arrival of 
the "suffragettes." "Huge hats, dan- 
gerous hatpins, hobble and harem 
skirts," she observed in her diary of 
1911, "the conduct of the Suffra- 
gettes are [sic] hard to defend." She 
mourned the death of Susan B. An- 
thony in 1906, and gave her final 
public remarks on behalf of women 
as a tribute to Anthony's memory: 
"A few days ago someone said in my 
presence that every woman in the 
world should stand with bared head 
before Susan B. Anthony. Before I 
had time to think I said, 'And every 
man as well.' I would not retract the 
words. I believe her work is more for 
the welfare of man than for that of 
woman herself. Man is trying to 
carry the burdens of the world alone. 
When he had the efficient help of 
woman he should be glad, and he 
will be. Just now it is new and 
strange, and men cannot comprehend 
what it would mean. But when such 
help comes, and men are used to it, 
they will be grateful for it. The 
change is not far away. This country 
is to know woman suffrage, and it 
will be a glad and proud day when it 

Barton was also kept busy by the 
work of two households — the Glen 
Echo house and a summer home in 
North Oxford, Massachusetts. She 
worked in the gardens, put up fruit 
and vegetables, did her own laundry, 
and even milked the cows. She also 
continued her voluminous corre- 
spondence, and wrote a slim autobio- 
graphical volume, The Story of My 


Childhood. The book, published in 
1907, was intended to be the first of 
a series. The work of writing was 
taxing, however, and she never fin- 
ished the second volume. But she re- 
mained active. "I still work many 
hours, and walk many miles," she 
proudly told friends in 1909. In her 
diary she wrote that she had had "a 
hard day's work — but I am so thank- 
ful — so grateful that I can do it, and 
am not a helpless invalid to be 
waited on." 

Barton knew she was aging but 
fought it. Privately she conceded that 
"there is a lack of coordination be- 
tween the brain and the limbs," but 
publicly she resented any allusion to 
her age. She disliked giving away re- 
cent photographs of herself and 
wished people would accept pictures 
of her in "strong middle life." She 
also fooled nature — and many peo- 
ple — by artistically covering her age. 
A young relative was amazed to find 
that Aunt Clara "was very particular 
about her make-up and in those days 
there were few people who dared use 
creams and rouge and powder, but 
Aunt Clara used them skillfully and 
the result was most amazingly good. 
She looked years younger when she 
had finished . . . and her eyebrows 
were treated with a pencil, if you 

"Next came the combing of her 
coal black hair which, by the way, 
had been dyed. Mother told me once 
when she was with Aunt Clara when 
she was sick for a long period and 
couldn't have her hair attended to, it 
was lovely and white, but she would 
not have it so and wore it dyed black 
to the very last. 

"After her face and hair were fin- 
ished . . . [she] put on her waist, but 
before buttoning it down the front, 

she stuffed tissue paper all across the 
front to make a nice rounded bust." 

She was, in many ways, an eccen- 
tric figure. Visitors were amused to 
see her weed the garden, her chest 
plastered with the decorations of for- 
eign governments. She was always an 
individual in matters of dress, but 
her costumes became more unusual 
in her later years. Her favorite dress 
color was green and she enjoyed 
wearing a dash of red. One outfit 
had five ill-matching shades of green 
for skirt, sleeves, collar and bodice, 
two kinds of lace, red ribbon, "and 
about the bottom . . . was a strip of 
the most awful old motheaten beaver 
fur, about six inches wide." Finan- 
cially, she was quite well off, but in 
the best New England tradition she 
practiced economy in all things. 
When a part of her dress wore out, 
she apparently replaced it with what- 
ever material was on hand. 

Most of Clara Barton's friends and 
family died before her, and in her 
last years she was often lonely. She 
sometimes thought her achievements 
were worthless beside the importance 
of friendship. "What matters the 
praise of the world?" Barton asked 
herself in her journal on February 6, 
1907, "and what matter after we leave 
it especially? How hollow is that thing 
called fame ." 

Barton's loneliness heightened 
what had been a mild interest in spir- 
itualism. She used faith healers and 
urged them on others. From 1903 on 
she was a champion of Christian Sci- 
ence and was an outspoken defender 
of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of 
Christian Science. She also dabbled 
in astrology and became a firm be- 
liever in spiritualistic seances. Much 
of her time after 1907 was spent in 
the company of a medium. With 


complete sincerity Barton recorded 
conversations with Lincoln, Grant, 
and Sherman, with her family, and 
with old friends Susan B. Anthony, 
President McKinley, and Empress 
Augusta of Germany. She relied on 
these "spirits" for advice and per- 
suaded Dr. Hubbell to depend on 
them, too. This had unfortunate re- 
percussions. After Barton's death, 
Hubbell was taken in by a woman 
who claimed to have made contact 
with Barton's spirit. Hubbell was so 
under the influence of this woman 
that he actually gave her the house at 
Glen Echo. It was several years and 
court cases later before he got the 
house back. 

Clara Barton died on April 12, 
1912, at the age of 90. She had en- 
dured double-pneumonia twice in 
one year and was too weak to re- 
cover fully. Her last words, recalled 
from a favorite poem, were "Let me 
go, let me go." 

She was a remarkable woman. She 
was neither the Christ-like figure Dr. 
Hubbell idolized, nor the grasping 
Red Cross potentate that others saw. 
She was an individual capable of firm 
action, strong beliefs, and an ability 
to see a need clearly and fulfill it. To 
everything she did — schoolteaching, 
Civil War aid, and Red Cross 
relief — she brought strong idealism 
and unfailing energy. She was truly 


&. R 

t* -f? r* 



• V 


K fT &'&' *"*' •** fl? t? ' ^ 
* "■ j^ * ( fl **< ^ : fi ^ . 4P 

/n 1902 Clara Barton was asked 
to be commencement speaker 
for Philadelphia 's Blockley Hos- 
pital nursing class. Here she 
poses with the graduates for the 
camera. By her eighty-first year 
she had become a national figure 
despite the mounting criticism 
of her management of the 
American Red Cross. 




yi iir.K 



*4 % v 

Clara Barton National Historic Site: A Saga of Preservation 

Clara Barton's house in Glen Echo owes its 
existence to two unrelated facts: The 1889 
Johnstown Flood and a plan for a housing de- 
velopment at Glen Echo. In 1890, two broth- 
ers, Edwin and Edward Baltzley, decided to 
develop a cultural and intellectual residential 
community in Glen Echo. The next year they 
established a branch of the National Chautau- 
qua, an association dedicated to education and 
productive recreation. The Baltzley brothers 
approached Clara Barton and offered her a 
plot of land and the workmen necessary to 
build a structure if she would locate in their 
community. They hoped that the attraction of 
such a well-known personality as Barton would 
be a testimonial to the soundness of their en- 

The proposal suited Barton perfectly, for 
she was looking for a location on which she 
could build a new headquarters building for 
the Red Cross. After the Johnstown Flood she 
and Dr. Julian Hubbell had had one of the 
Red Cross warehouses dismantled and the 
lumber shipped to Washington D.C., where 
she hoped to use it for the construction of the 
new headquarters building. The Baltzleys' of- 
fer came just at the right moment and she ac- 
cepted immediately. Although it was under- 
stood that it was Red Cross property, the land 
was deeded directly to her. The whole transac- 
tion was typical of the confusion that Barton 
allowed to exist between her private posses- 
sions and those of the Red Cross; she could 
never clearly separate the two. 

Dr. Hubbell supervised the construction of 
the building, clearly following the lines of the 
Johnstown structure. Here, however, he added 
an extra flourish: a third floor "lantern" room 
over the central well. In the summer of 1891 
Barton and Hubbell moved in, but she found 
daily travel to Washington, D.C., every day 
too taxing and decided to use the house at 
Glen Echo strictly as a warehouse. 

In 1897 electric trolley lines made Glen 
Echo more accessible to Washington, and she 
decided once again to try living in Glen Echo. 
Extensive remodeling made the house livable. 
A stone facade originally built so that the Red 
Cross headquarters would harmonize with the 
nearby Chautauqua buildings, which were 
never built, was removed and the house was 
painted a warm yellow with brown trim. 

The Glen Echo house was the headquarters 
of the American National Red Cross from 
1897 to 1904. As such it was the scene of much 
official activity. But it was also a quiet retreat, 
a farm, and a home. Chickens and a cow pro- 
vided food for the household that usually in- 


At the left is an exterior view of 
the house at Glen Echo. The top 
view on this page is of the center 
hall with its balconies. The front 
parlor contains furniture that 
originally belonged to Clara 
Barton. The portrait is of her 
cat Tommy. 

Pages 66 and 67: Clara Barton 
and Red Cross workers have 
a picnic in Tampa, Florida, 
in 1898. 


eluded eight or nine staff members. Frequent 
overnight guests and indigents sheltered by 
Clara Barton swelled this number further. Her 
horses, Baba and Prince, were housed in a sta- 
ble, and cats Tommy and Pussy roamed the 
grounds. A large vegetable garden furnished 
fresh produce. The grounds were a profusion 
of flowers and vegetables mixed together. Visi- 
tors noted that carrots and beets edged the 
walkway out to the trolley stop. Beds of mari- 
golds, corn, roses, and tomatoes grew to- 
gether. Of particular pride to the owner were 
the two varieties of Clara Barton rose that 
were developed independently by two nursery- 
men: Conrad Jones in West Grove, Pennsylva- 
nia, and Mr. Hofmeister in Cincinnati, Ohio. 
Strawberry plants sent to her by the grateful 
farmers of Galveston, Texas, in appreciation 
of her services after the disastrous hurricane 
and tidal wave in 1900 provided great desserts 
each June. 

In 1909 Barton deeded the house to Dr. 
Hubbell — perhaps in fear that the Red Cross 
might try to reclaim the building after her 
death. When she died in 1912, Dr. Hubbell to- 
gether with Mrs. John Logan and Gen. W. H. 
Sears formed the Clara Barton Memorial As- 
sociation. They hoped to turn the house into a 
monument to Barton's memory. They sold 
memberships in the association to finance the 
maintenance of the property but the response 
was poor, and they soon ran into financial 

The solution to their problems appeared to 
be at hand when Mabelle Rawson Hirons 
came on the scene. A native of North Oxford, 
Massachusetts, she was an acquaintance of 
Clara Barton and thus known to Hubbell and 
his colleagues. She claimed that Barton had 
appeared to her at a seance and told her to go 
to Washington and take charge of the Glen 
Echo house. This message "from the beyond" 
and Mrs. Hirons' assurances that she was 
wealthy and would take care of all the finan- 
cial problems were all that the Memorial Asso- 
ciation members needed to receive her with 
open arms. Even her demand that Dr. Hubbell 
sign the deed over to her raised no doubts. 

Within a short time it became startlingly ap- 
parent that Mrs. Hirons was not about to pay 
off the debts of the house. Instead she was us- 
ing the house to pay off her debts by selling 
Barton's own furniture and renting out rooms. 
Dr. Hubbell was evicted by Mrs. Hirons and 
abandoned by members of the Memorial Asso- 
ciation who were disgusted with his failure to 
understand what Mrs. Hirons was doing. He 
had to fend for himself until a Mr. and Mrs. 

Canada, owners of a local grocery store, took 
him in. They persuaded him to sue Mrs. Hi- 
rons in 1922, and four years later the courts 
returned the house to him. 

Dr. Hubbell died in 1929 and left the house 
to two of his nieces, Rena and Lena Hubbell. 
Only Rena lived in the house, which she ran 
as a rooming house. In 1942 she and her sister 
sold it to Josephine Frank Noyes, who had 
come to Washington from Iowa. Mrs. Noyes 
and her sister Henrietta Frank continued to 
run it as a rooming house. They also urged 
people to come and see "Clara Barton's 
House." They took care of the remaining orig- 
inal furniture and even managed to acquire 
some of the pieces that Mrs. Hirons had sold. 

In 1958 Mrs. Noyes died and left the prop- 
erty to her four sisters: Frances Frank, Hen- 
rietta Frank, Katherine Frank Bronson, and 
Sarah Frank Rhodes. By 1963 the sisters, 
being quite elderly, felt that the house was too 
big for them to keep up and decided to sell it. 
The amusement park next door offered them 
$50,000. The sisters feared that the house 
would be torn down to enlarge the amusement 
park's parking lot. Unhappy at such a possibil- 
ity, they decided to sell the house for $35,000 
to anyone who would save and maintain the 
property even though this would mean a finan- 
cial loss to themselves. 

A group of Montgomery County, Maryland, 
Red Cross volunteers met and proposed that 
the American National Red Cross buy the 
property and preserve it as a historic site. The 
Red Cross replied that it could not use its 
money for such a purpose, that its donations 
could only go for disaster relief. The Red 
Cross, however, did enthusiastically support 
the preservation project and in May 1963 
passed a resolution urging all Red Cross mem- 
bers to support the fund-raising effort. On 
May 28, 1963, this group incorporated itself as 
the Friends of Clara Barton. They agreed to 
pay the Frank sisters $1,000 by July 1963 to 
secure the sale. A whirlwind of bake sales, 
fashion shows, and other events had raised 
only $800 by the deadline. Several members 
went to talk to the Frank sisters to get an ex- 
tension of the deadline. As they were talking, 
the amusement park's lawyer walked in and 
handed one of the sisters a check for $50,000. 
While they pondered whether to accept the 
check or grant an extension, one of the 
Friends ran into the house and burst into the 
room with a check for $200. The Franks 
handed the lawyer his $50,000 check and sent 
him packing. 

This was only the initial hurdle, for half of 


Red Cross family tree 

the remaining $34,000, plus the settlement 
costs had to be raised by January 1, 1964. 
Public solicitation, two house tours, and two 
benefits raised the amount and at the turn of 
the year the Friends took possession. Later the 
group bought all of Clara Barton's furniture in 
the sisters' possession. 

In the succeeding years the Friends contin- 
ued to raise money and work on the house to 
repair structural defects. In April 1965 the 
house was designated a registered national 
landmark. The Friends made their final pay- 
ment on the mortgage in early 1975. In April 
they presented the deed to the National Park 
Service in accordance with legislation passed 
by Congress in October 1974 authorizing the 
establishment of Clara Barton National His- 
toric Site. 

In December 1979 the Friends disbanded 
and donated the $8,435.37 remaining in their 
treasury to the park to purchase furnishings for 
the Red Cross Offices in the house. Their gen- 
erosity contributed substantially to the preser- 
vation of this property and ensured its sur- 

Since acquiring the property, the National 
Park Service has done extensive research on 
the building and its contents to determine the 
proper course of the preservation efforts. To- 
day, work continues on the building and on 
acquiring furnishings that reflect these find- 

The process of restoration is simultaneously 
tedious and fascinating. Bit by bit the mate- 
rials — wallpaper, partitions, even bathrooms — 
added after Clara Barton's time are removed, 
revealing the original fabric of the building. 
Newspapers found in the walls as insulation 
are removed, flattened, and saved. Historic 
floors, 1908 electrical wiring, and doorways 
reappear. New questions arise as old ones are 
answered. The sources are the house itself, 
Clara Barton's diary and other writings, and a 
collection of historic photographs. Each source 
adds a different perspective to the restoration 
of her home and to a better understanding of 
her life. 

Clara Barton National Historic Site is open 
for guided tours on a limited basis. For details 
call 301-492-6245. Free parking is available. 
The park offers a variety of special programs 
on Clara Barton and her times. 

Diary and first aid kit 


National Park Service Sites Associated with Clara Barton 

Andersonville National Historic Site, Ander- 
sonville, Georgia 31711. The park is the site of 
the Confederate prison camp for Union pris- 
oners of war. In 1865 Clara Barton met Dor- 
ence Atwater, a former prisoner at Anderson- 
ville, while she was involved in her search for 
missing men. Edwin M. Stanton, secretary of 
war, approved of her plan to go to Anderson- 
ville with Atwater and identify as many of the 
graves as possible. Atwater's written record, 
which he had kept during his imprisonment, 
listed each man's name and the number that 
marked his position in the trench; by compar- 
ing this list with the cemetery's numbered 
markers Barton had no trouble identifying 
12,920 graves; 440 remained unknown. During 
her stay in Andersonville, Barton wrote to 
Secretary Stanton requesting that the former 
prison grounds be turned into a national ceme- 
tery. Stanton agreed and on August 17, 1865, 
Barton raised the flag at the dedication. 

The park museum contains an exhibit de- 
voted to the work of Barton and Atwater and 
further explains their role in the establishment 
of the cemetery. The park is open daily except 
for January 1, Thanksgiving, and December 25. 

Antietam National Battlefield, Box 158, 
Sharpsburg, Maryland 21782. During the battle 
of Antietam, Clara Baron attended and helped 
a Pennsylvania surgeon tend to the Union 
wounded. The location of this activity has 
never been precisely determined, though it is 
known that it did not take place on ground 
currently owned by the park. Within the park 
near stop 2 on the driving tour is a monument 
erected by the Washington County, Maryland, 
Red Cross chapter in honor of her work dur- 
ing the battle. The park is located north and 
east of Sharpsburg in west central Maryland 
and contains the ground on which the bloody 
September 17, 1862, battle was fought. It is 
open daily except for January 1, Thanksgiving, 
and December 25. 


Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County 
Battlefields Memorial National Military 
Park, P.O. Box 679, Fredericksburg, Vir- 
ginia 22401. At Chatham Manor, across the 
Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg, 
you can visit the house where Clara Barton 
provided relief and comfort to the wounded 
during the battle of Fredericksburg. Exhibits in 
the Manor about Barton's role include a letter 
written to a cousin describing the battle scene 
and her work. Chatham Manor is open daily 
from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed January 1 
and December 25. The main visitor center for 
the park, which contains the battlefields of 
Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, the Wilder- 
ness, and Spotsylvania Court House, is on 
U.S. 1 (Lafayette Avenue) in Fredericksburg. 
A self-guiding automobile tour connects all the 


Johnstown Flood National Memorial, P.O. Box 

247, Cresson, Pennsylvania 16630. The park is 
located along U.S. 219 and Pa. 869 at the site 
of the South Fork Dam, 16 kilometers (10 
miles) northeast of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. 
Located at the dam site are a small visitor cen- 
ter, restroom, interpretive trails, and a picnic 
area with tables and cooking grills. If you 
drive to Saint Michael on Pa. 869, which 
closely follows the shore of the 1889 lake, you 
will pass some of the Queen Anne cottages 
and the clubhouse that were part of the resort 
at Lake Conemaugh. Grandview Cemetery in 
Johnstown contains the graves of many vic- 
tims, including 777 who were never identified. 
The park is open daily except Thanksgiving, 
December 25, and January 1. 



>WW?,llll|¥»h<: ■ < ~' J 


^~ - :: ^T 


-- , 



Manassas National Battlefield Park, Box 1830, 
Manassas, Virginia 22110. During the battle of 
Second Manassas, Clara Barton arrived in 
Fairfax Station, Virginia, by train with supplies 
for caring for the wounded. She joined a Fed- 
eral field hospital that had moved into the 
hamlet ahead of the Union retreat. At St. 
Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Fairfax Sta- 
tion the Union doctors set up a hospital. Bar- 
ton arrived at the same time and contributed 
medical help. She never reached the battlefield 
that is preserved in today's park. St. Mary's 
Church still stands at 11112 Fairfax Station 
Road, Fairfax Station, Virginia, and a plaque 
on its wall honors Barton's work. 


National Park Service Sites Commemorating American Women 


^Ste^. ^ v J 

p.< s LJ 





HSfet" "" 

£*: ■;•• > ; ;,X v 


Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, Hyde 
Park, New York 12538. Eleanor Roosevelt 
used "Val-Kill" as a retreat from the cares of 
her busy and active life. At the cottage, built 
in 1925 in a pastoral setting, she entertained 
friends and dignitaries and promoted the many 
causes in which she was interested. 

Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site, c/o 

Richmond National Battlefield Park, 3215 E. 
Broad Street, Richmond, Virginia 23223. The 
brick house at 110A E. Leigh Street was the 
home of the first woman president of an 
American bank. She was the daughter of an 


aJTF'm* £■ F=aa ■ Sit 
|B iifu H ^p kiu H 





Sewall-Belmont House National Historic Site, 

144 Constitution Avenue, NE, Washington, 
D.C. 20002. Since 1929 this house has been 
the headquarters of the National Woman's 
Party. It commemorates Alice Paul, a women's 
suffrage leader and the party's founder, and 
her associates. 


Related Sites 

The American National Red Cross Headquar- 
ters, 17th between D and E Streets, NW, 
Washington, D.C. 20006. After Clara Barton 
resigned as president, the Red Cross needed to 
find a suitable place for its headquarters. After 
spending some years in various unused rooms 
in government office buildings, the U.S. Con- 
gress approved legislation that provided $400,- 
000 to match an equal amount raised privately 
by Red Cross officials and that donated a city 
block of land for a building. The land has re- 
mained U.S. Government property although it 
is in the perpetual custody of the American 
Red Cross. The main building, which fronts on 
17th Street, contains exhibit areas on the 
ground and main floors. A library on the third 
floor of the office building contains extensive 
holdings about the Red Cross and related sub- 
jects. The complex of buildings is open to the 
public 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through 

Clara Barton Birthplace, 68 Clara Barton 
Road, North Oxford, Massachusetts 01537. 
Clara Barton was born in this house on Christ- 
mas Day, 1821, the youngest child of Stephen 
and Sally Barton. The house, which had been 
built shortly before her birth, is now a mu- 
seum and contains memorabilia of Clara Bar- 
ton and her family. The house is open from 1 
p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday in 
July and August. The remainder of the year it 
is open only by appointment, primarily for 
school and private groups. A fee is charged. 


w r 


Johnstown Flood Museum, 304 Washington 
Street, Johnstown, Pennsylvania 15901. The 
museum chronicles the events of the disastrous 
flood of 1889. Special exhibits detail the role 
of Clara Barton and the American Red Cross. 
Here the new organization first demonstrated 
its ability to respond to a major disaster. The 
museum continues to work closely with the lo- 
cal chapter of the American Red Cross in 
maintaining a record of the organization's re- 
lief through the years in this flood-prone val- 
ley. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 
Monday to Saturday, and from 12:30 p.m. to 
4:30 p.m. on Sundays. It is closed January 1, 
Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day, Thanksgiv- 
ing, and December 25. A fee is charged; group 
rates are available. 

Manuscript Reading Room, Library of Con- 
gress, 10 First Street, SE, Washington, D.C. 
20540. In the 1930s the Hubbell sisters were 
doing some remodeling on the Clara Barton 
House. In the process they discovered a 
boarded-up corridor between two bedrooms. 
When the corridor was reopened they found 
the area filled with Clara Barton's personal pa- 
pers, diaries, scrapbooks, and other memora- 
bilia of her life and career. Who put them 
there remains unknown. The two sisters pre- 
sented the entire cache to the Library of Con- 
gress. The collection has been sorted and in- 
dexed and is available for the use of scholars 


Armchair Explorations: Some Books You May Want to Read 

Barton. Clara. A Story of the Red Cross; Glimpses of Field Work. 
New York: D. Appleton and Company. 1904. 

The Storv of Mv Childhood. New York: 

The Baker and Taylor Company. 1907. 

Barton. William E. The Life of Clara Barton. 2 vols. Boston: 
Houghton Mifflin. 1922. 

Dulles. Foster Rhea. The American Red Cross: A History. 
New York: Harper. 1950. 

Dunant. Jean-Henri. A Memory of Solferino. Washington. D.C.: 
The American National Red Cross, 1939. 

Fishwick. Marshall. Illustrious Americans: Clara Barton. 
Morristown, New Jersery: Silver-Burdett. 1966. 

Flexner, Eleanor. Century of Struggle: The Women's 
Rights Movement in the United States. Cambridge: 
Harvard University Press, 1974. 

Leech, Margaret. Reveille in Washington. 1860-1865. New York: 
Harper. 1941. 

Ross, Ishbel. Angel of the Battlefield. New York: 
Harper and Brothers, 1956. 

--GPO 1981-341611 /I 
Stock Number 02400500806 3 

For sale by the Superintendent of Doci 
US Government Printing Office. 
Washington. DC 20402 



Numbers in italics refer to photographs or illustrations. 

American Equal Rights 
Association 32 
American Red Cross 27, 42; 
disaster relief, 6, 11, 33, 34, 
48-59 passim, 77; headquarters, 
6-7, 13,52, 68-71, 76; photos, 
51, 56, 68-69, 71; under Clara 
Barton's leadership, 11, 45, 46, 
48-50, 52, 54, 56-59 
Andersonville National Historic 
Site 6, 33, 72-73 
Anthony, Susan B. 7, 10, 43, 62 
Antietam National Battlefield 
6, 25, 72 

Appia, Louis 10, 11,35,39,43 
Atwater, Dorence 33-34, 72 

Baltzley brothers 68 

Barton, Clarissa (Clara) Harlow 

16, 18, 42, 59, 62-64; and 
International Red Cross, 43-46, 
52; and women's rights, 7, 18, 

20, 43, 52-53, 62; as American 
Red Cross leader, 8, 11, 13, 
45-59 passim; as lecturer, 34, 
44, 52-53; biography, 8-13, 
16-17, 42, 64, 76; European 
travels, 35-37, 40-42; health, 20- 

21, 34, 36, 40, 42; memorabilia 
and papers, 6, 60-61, 71, 77; 
other careers, 17-18, 20, 21-22, 
31 , 52; personality, 16, 17, 26-36 
passim, 43, 46, 47-48, 54, 56; 
photos, 8, 46, 53, 64-65; publica- 
tions, 10, 12, 13,43,44,56,62-63; 
relief activities, 11, 12, 13, 22- 
34 passim, 54-56, 72, 74; retire- 
ment, 59, 62-64 

Barton Birthplace, Clara 76 

Barton Memorial Association, 

Clara 70 

Barton National Historic Site, 

Clara 6-7, 13, 52, 70-71, photos 

12, 68-69 

Barton, David (brother) 16, 19, 30 

Barton, Dolly (sister) 17 

Barton, Edward 19 

Barton, Julia 17 

Barton, Sally (sister) 17, 42 

Barton, Sarah Stone (mother) 16 

Barton, Stephen (father) 19, 23 

Barton, Stephen (brother) 16, 19, 


Barton, William E. 47 

Beaver, James A. 50, 52 

Bellows, Henry 36, 43, 45 

Blackwell, Elizabeth 9 

Boardman, Mabel 13, 57, 58 

Bowles, Charles 36, 43 

Butler, Benjamin 31, 52 

Civil War: battles, 6, 23, 25, 30, 
72, 73; relief work, 22-23, 25- 
29, 30-32 
Clinton Liberal Institute 9,18 

Dix, Dorothea 27, 29 

Dunant, Jean-Henri 13, J5-36 38- 


Franco-Prussian War 10, 37, 
40-41, 43 
Frank sisters 70 

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania 
County Battlefields Memorial 
National Military Park 6, 25, 73 
Friends of Clara Barton 13, 70, 71 
Freedmen 32-33 

Gage, Frances Dana 27, 44 
Geneva Convention. See Treaty 
of Geneva 

Glen Echo house. See Clara 
Barton National Historic Site 
Graves, Lucy 55 

Harris, Joel Chandler 57 
Hirons, Mabelle Rawson 70 
Hubbell, Julian 41, 47, 48, 68, 
70; photos 10, 64-65 
Hubbell cousins 70 

Johnstown flood 6, 12, 50, 57, 

52, 68, 74, 77 

Lapham, Elbridge 45 
Lincoln, Abraham 9, 22, 33 
Logan, Mrs. John 70 
Louise, Grand Duchess of Baden 

10, 37,42,47,50,60,61 

Manassas National Battlefield Park 

74. See also Civil War battles 
Margot, Antoinette 36, 40, 42, 46 
Moynier, Gustav 39, 45 

Napoleon III J7, 38,43 
National First Aid Society 
13, 59, 62 

National Park Service 6, 13, 71 
Noyes, Josephine Frank 70 

Red Cross, International 10, 11, 

35, 36, 40, 43, 52, 60 

Red Cross Relief Committee of 

New York 54, 55 

Roosevelt National Historic Site, 

Eleanor 75 

Roosevelt, Theodore 55, 58, 59 

Sears, W.H. 70 

Second Manassas 6, 23, 74 

Sewall-Belmont House National 

Historic Site 75 

Shepard, Hannah 44 

Souvenir de Solferino, Un 35, 36, 

38, 39, 44 

Spanish-American War 33 

Stanton, Edwin M. 72 

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady 10, 18 

Stone, Elvira 18, 20, 36 

Treaty of Geneva 35-46 passim, 
60. See also International 
Red Cross 
Tubman, Harriet 9 

U.S. Christian Commission 27, 29 
U.S. Sanitary Commission 26, 27, 


Walker National Historic Site, 
Maggie L. 75 
Welles, CM. 25 
Whitman, Walt 27, 29 
Wilhelm I, Kaiser 37. 60 
Williams, Sophia W. R. 57 
Wilson, Henry 21, 23, 30. 32, 42 
Women's rights 7, 8, 32, 44, 62; 
and Clara Barton, 18, 20, 43, 


National Park 

The National Park Service expresses its apprecia- 
tion to all those who made the preparation and 
production of this handbook possible. 

Elizabeth Brown Pryor, who wrote Part 2, is a 
professional historian. She is the author of several 
journal and magazine articles on nineteenth-century 
America and lives in Washington, D.C. 


The artwork on the cover and on the three double 

pages introducing the different sections of the book 

is by Mark English of Fairway, Kansas. 

American Red Cross 11 steamboats, 13 Boardman, 

39, and 64-65. 

Clara Barton Birthplace 76 birthplace. 

Johnstown Flood Museum 77 museum. 

Library of Congress 8, 9, 10 Anthony, Stanton, and 

Louise of Baden, 11 Hayes, Garfield, and Arthur, 12 

Wald and Adams, 16, 19, 21, 24, 27, 28, 29, 31, 32, 

35, 37, 40-41, 43, 44, 46, 51, 53, 56, 60-61. 

Museum of Modern Art 59. 

New York Public Library 22. 

Robert Shafer 68, 69, 71, 75 Sewall-Belmont, 

76 American Red Cross, 77 Library of Congress. 

Smithsonian Institution 12 ambulance. 

All other photographs come from the files of Clara 

Barton National Historic Site and the National 

Park Service. 

U. S. Department 
of the Interior 

oai conservation a 

As the Nation s principal consei vm 
partment of the Interior has respon 



:ludes fosterinu the wisest use of our land u 

water resc 

serving tne envi 

ish and wildlite. pre 

national parks and historical places, and providing 
the enjoyment of life through outdoor recreation. ' 

nent assesses our enerev ai 

and works to assure that their development is in the 
best interest of all our people. The Department alsc 
has a maior responsibility for American Indian rese 


Clara Barton